Is Google Books Fair Use? We May Never Know.

Instead of battling it out in court, Google has agreed to pay $125 million to settle two copyright lawsuits by publishers and authors over Google Books. The deal will make millions of books searchable and printable online, although downloads of copyrighted material are going to cost you.

The settlements requires Google to obtain content owners' permission before publishing snippets for in-print books, although pages of text from out-of-print will still be available. Unfortunately for copyright scholars, this part of the settlement precludes a court decision about whether such snippets constitute "fair use"--a subject that has inspired a great deal of debate since Google Books launched in 2004 (see here for comments from the pro-fair use crowd (check out the video!), here for an argument that more legislation is needed in this area, and here and here for a more detailed analysis).

Here's the full story, including more details about the settlement. Google's press release about the deal can be found here.