Google's plans for a digital super-library have been put on ice by the New York courts as a Judge has rejected a proposed settlement between Google and book publishers.
The search giant's plan was to scan and digitise every book ever written, including rare and out of print titles.
But the risk of authors not receiving payment for their re-published works became a contentious issue as some older works' copyright owners may be difficult to track down.
In this scenario, Google would benefit financially from selling access to these 'orphaned' works without paying any royalties at all.
In 2008 Google negotiated a deal with the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers which would have seen the search giant paying out about £77m to the copyright owners of scanned books.
Judge Denny Chin, who previously delayed the hearing to wait for the amended settlement and ultimately rejected it, decided that this still didn't address all the relevant concerns including objections from Microsoft and Yahoo!.
He wrote, "While the digitisation of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the [amended settlement agreement] would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case."
Google the Librarian
Google is disappointed by the ruling but not put off. Managing counsel for the search giant, Hilary Ware, said:
"We'll review the Court's decision and consider our options.
"Like many others, we believe this agreement has the potential to open up access to millions of books that are currently hard to find in the US today.
"Regardless of the outcome, we'll continue to work to make more of the world's books discoverable online through Google Books and Google eBooks."