Google and US publishing firms announced Thursday that they reached a settlement in a long-running copyright case over books and journals digitized by the Internet giant.
The settlement "will provide access to publishers' in-copyright books and journals digitized by Google for its Google Library Project" and "will end seven years of litigation," Google said in a joint statement with the Association of American Publishers.
The agreement ends a copyright infringement lawsuit filed in October 2005 by five AAP member publishers.
Because the settlement is between the parties to the litigation, no court approval is needed.
But the deal does not affect another long-running lawsuit involving the Authors Guild for the massive Google Books project. That case remains pending in the courts.
The settlement with the publishers "acknowledges the rights and interests of copyright-holders," the statement said.
Under the settlement, publishers will have the option to allow Google to display portions or the entire book content, or to sell the work through Google Play.
"US publishers can choose to make available or choose to remove their books and journals digitized by Google for its Library Project," the statement said. "Those deciding not to remove their works will have the option to receive a digital copy for their use."
Google has scanned around 20 million books, and the agreement could allow millions more to be available online in various forms.
"We are pleased that this settlement addresses the issues that led to the litigation," said Tom Allen, president and chief executive of AAP. "It shows that digital services can provide innovative means to discover content while still respecting the rights of copyright-holders."
Google's chief legal officer David Drummond said, "By putting this litigation with the publishers behind us, we can stay focused on our core mission and work to increase the number of books available to educate, excite and entertain our users via Google Play."
Google Books allows users to browse up to 20 percent of books and then purchase digital versions through Google Play.
Under the agreement, books scanned by Google in the Library Project can now be included by publishers.
Other details of the agreement are confidential.
The publishers in the settlement include McGraw-Hill, Pearson's education division and Penguin Group USA, John Wiley & Sons, and CBS unit Simon & Schuster.
In September, an appeals court put on hold the lawsuit from the Authors Guild, likely delaying a full hearing on the merits of the copyright issues in the case.
The US appeals court overruled a circuit judge who last month called for a hearing to go forward even as Google contested whether the case may be certified as a class action.
The authors and publishers filed the original case in 2005 but the publishers dropped out after a judge rejected a settlement.
A tentative settlement in the case was reached in 2008 under which Google would pay $125 million to resolve copyright claims and to establish an independent "Book Rights Registry." But a judge rejected the deal.
The question of copyright for books before the digital era remain murky, but may be determined by the contracts between authors and publishers, according to industry officials.