Google and book publishers have come to an understanding of sorts, ending a lawsuit that has been ongoing since 2005 when publishers first took legal action against the search engine which had begun scanning print copies of books from libraries and making them searchable online.
A settlement was nearly reached in 2008 when Google agreed to pay $125 million to publishers and authors, but courts rejected it as the terms would have had broad reaching implications for the industry as a whole.
But this most recent agreement is being criticized for not resolving the underlying legal issues. According to Publisher's Weekly, "The main component of the deal-publishers with books scanned by Google under its library program can choose to "opt out" of the program-is something Google has always offered, while publishers were insisting on an opt-in option in 2005. And the question of copyright infringement and fair use was shoved to the side, as it was in the earlier settlement rejected by Judge Chin."
It's been widely speculated that publishers have finally opted to give in to Google as the company has become a larger part of the growing ebook ecosystem. The publishers have given up trying to have Google's database declared to be a case of copyright infringement, and have instead settled for a copy of their scanned book which they can then do with as they choose -- including sell them.
Still, the legal battle is not completely over. While the publishers may have settled, the authors have not. Litigation between Google and the Authors' Guild continues.