A lawsuit filed against Google last week by a group of publishers alleging copyright infringement over its plan to scan and digitize thousands of books was painted as a routine part of doing business by Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, during a speech in Tokyo earlier this week.
Schmidt, addressing the Global Management Forum conference, told the largely Japanese audience that such lawsuits are a daily hazard for a company like Google.
"Google has as its mission to organise all of the world's information. Not everyone agrees with that and in the American legal system if you disagree you get sued, so we get sued every day," he says. "[It's] probably not very common in Japan but it's routine in the United States."
The suit was filed last week by The Association of American Publishers (AAP) and seeks a judgement that Google's scanning of books is an infringement of copyright. The Google Print programme, which is already in public testing, is building a searchable database of thousands of books. Visitors to the website can run searches on books that have already been scanned and then see a copy of the relevant page of the book.
"Well, last week among the many suits were a series of suits about our construction of a digital card catalogue," Schmidt says. "We are building an index of all of the books in the world and in order to do that we have to scan them. Some publishers have decided that's not OK. [It] makes no sense to me because most books are not read, sorry, and when they are copied and indexed people will be able to buy them," he says.
Google was also sued in September by The Authors Guild, which claimed massive copyright infringement as a result of Google Print.
Schmidt underlined to his audience that the service doesn't allow users to read the entire text of the book online and also provides links to online bookshops where it can be purchased and other details about the book that would enable it to be ordered from a local retail store.
"We are not allowing end users to make a copy of the book or even see a page. That is very important. You cannot use Google to take a book and make a copy. You can use Google to find the book and buy it," he says.
Google declined a request for an interview with Schmidt.