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Facts & Fiction
Fiction: Google Books lets you download any book in the world for free.
Fact: Google Books helps you search within and discover books, not download or read books without paying for them. So when you find a book that's still under copyright, you'll see only a small portion of the book at a time–either the Snippet View or the Sample Pages View–plus links to places where you can buy or borrow it. If you find a book that's out of copyright, however, we're able to display the Full Book View. (You can read more about public domain books in Google Books here.)
Fiction: You say you're only showing small "fair use" snippets of books under copyright, but I see whole pages, so you must be infringing copyright.
Fact: Whenever you can see more than a few snippets of an in-copyright book in Google Books, it's because the author or publisher has joined our Partner Program and granted us permission to show you the Sample Pages View, which helps you learn enough about a book to know whether you want to buy it. This is something we do with a publisher's explicit permission.
Fiction: If a book is still under copyright, scanning it without permission is illegal.
Fact: This is probably the most common misconception about Google Books, and about copyright law in general. The "fair use" provisions of U.S. copyright law (USC 17 107) describe the conditions under which someone may copy a work without the copyright holder's permission, like recording a TV show to watch later or quoting from an article in a blog post. Fair use is designed to safeguard copying that doesn't harm people's incentive or ability to produce and sell creative work, including books.
We've carefully designed Google Books to make sure our use of books is fair and fully consistent with the law. Copyright law is aimed at protecting and enhancing the value of creative works in order to encourage more of them–in this case, to ensure that authors write and publishers publish. We believe that by creating new opportunities for readers to find and buy books, we can help authors and publishers sell more of them. You can read more about fair use here.
Fiction: Ordinary people are entitled to fair use protections, but a company that sells advertising isn't.
Fact: The fair use provisions in copyright law protect companies the same way they protect people. The New York Times Company, for instance, relies on fair use when it publishes excerpts from books in book reviews surrounded by ads, and TV programs like "The Daily Show" use "fair use" clips from other programs.
Fiction: This project would be okay except that Google isn't letting authors and publishers choose whether or not their books appear in Google Books.
Fact: Any publisher or other copyright holder can easily exclude their titles from Google Books at any time, for any reason. We've posted the details on how to do that here and have a support team standing by to help anyone who has trouble doing it on their own.
It's worth bearing in mind, however, that under no circumstances will anyone ever see a full page of an in-copyright book through Google Books without the copyright holder's permission; when a book is under copyright, we show only snippets of text surrounding the search term unless the copyright holder has given us explicit permission to show more.
Fiction: Google is paid by booksellers like Amazon to include links on Google Books pages.
Fact: We provide links to booksellers on Google Books pages because we want to make it easier for users to buy books and for publishers to sell them. Booksellers don't pay to have their links included in Google Books, and Google doesn't receive any money if you buy a book from one of these retailers.
Fiction: Google is freeloading off people's books by making money from ads on Google Books pages and not sharing it with the copyright holders.
Fact: Google Books provides tremendous benefit to authors and publishers at significant cost to Google, the opposite of freeloading. We don't place ads on a specific book result unless the copyright holder has given us permission to display portions of the book and wants to show ads. When we do show ads, the majority of the revenue is given back to the copyright holder. In other words, we profit from Google Books ads only to the extent that our publishing partners do as well.