Google Spending Millions On Newspaper Ads To Notify Authors And Publishers Of Book Lawsuit Settlement

One of the requirements of class-action lawsuits is notification of potential class members. Most of the members of a class never know that a lawsuit has taken place on their behalf (e.g., bank X credit card holders). So the courts require attorneys to tell class members of the suit and settlement terms and allow them to opt out of the settlement if they desire. If they fail to opt out typically they’re bound by the terms and cannot sue independently.

Google is now in this position with the settlement of the Google Book Search Copyright Class Action lawsuit against its book scanning project. As part of the settlement, Google has set up a $125 million fund to settle claims, which is discussed on this dedicated website constructed to report the settlement terms and related rules.

To satisfy the notification requirements, in addition to the settlement website, Google has used a variety of methods to communicate with potential claimants. According to an article in the NY Times, it has used direct mail but it also plans to spend millions ($7 -$8 million) on newspaper and print magazine advertising to alert copyright holders about the settlement. The scope of all this is global — hence the price tag.

I would be remiss if I were not to point out the partial irony here: Google using traditional advertising to promote an online initiative. But the Internet, especially outside the West, still arguably doesn’t have the same reach as traditional media, which are thus critical to communicate with copyright holders, authors and publishers. (As an aside, if newspapers in certain US cities disappear it will be difficult to find a judicially acceptable alternative notification mechanism — perhaps a combination of TV, Internet and direct mail.)

The way the Book Settlement ad spend is apparently being distributed, according to the Times’ article, is 30 percent US, 30 percent “industrialized countries” and 40 percent “rest of world.” This apparently reflects the regional contribution of books to the global library.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Blog Search | Google: Critics | Google: Legal


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • luispaez

    Ironic? Not at all. Google used traditional media to publicize an important message. All companies should use all the tools at their disposal. Besides Google’s track record at entering new medias like radio and print, many people simply do not view email as the high quality communication medium that some of us techies think it is. Other people simply put a higher value on messages they receive through the mail, because there are less of them. Think about how many emails you get every day. Then think about how many letters you receive. Big difference. The only guaranteed way of legally getting someone a message is either to face-to-face deliver it, or send it via the Post Office. Our clients are using integrated campaigns every day to use online mediums to communicate with customers / contacts – but for contacting people who are not in your inner circle, you still need to reach out by mail to be sure they got the message.

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