Google has backtracked on plans to put the full text of books from the world's leading libraries on the Internet.

The search engine's plans have been widely criticised as a clear breach of copyright and it has now agreed to withhold books where the copyright holders request it to do so.

Adam M Smith, product manager for the Google Print project said that the new policy would balance the needs of users and publishers.

'The project aims to make it convenient and useful for publishers to get their books into Google Print,' he said, 'but those publishers who don't want to take advantage of this service can now simply tell us which books they'd like us to exclude.'

Without giving too many details, Smith said that nearly all major US and UK publishers

However the Association of American Publishers continues to have reservations. It said that Google's approach 'stands copyright law on its head' by transferring the responsibility for avoiding copyright infringement from the infringer to the copyright holder.

Google Watch, a website that has often questioned Google's track record on copyright, is similarly unimpressed by the policy change.

'Google will scan the entire copyrighted work, and will display snippets of copyrighted works in response to searches, even without the consent of the rights holder,' said Daniel Brandt. 'This is backwards to begin with - Google should find the rights holder and request "express consent".'

He added that it is unclear whether Google will seek permission where the copyright is no longer held by publishers but has passed to the author.

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