@ Roger Pearse
Please wake up to reality - copyright law does stink, but it IS the law.
My mother writes, but thankfully not for a living or we'd have starved long ago. The reality is that most authors and most books make very little profit - if any. A few "big names" make it, but they are the exception.
Writing a good book takes many months, if not years to do properly. When you've written it, it then takes effort and cost to get it into a presentable format and print it, distribute it, market it, etc, etc. It is right that people should be able to profit from their work, and that's why we have copyright.
What I do think is wrong is the current terms. Authors life plus 70 years does seem rather long to me - and to most people. If you want to direct your bile at anyone, aim it at the people who allowed such generous terms.
Given the current law, what Google are doing is illegal<period>. Unless they get permission from the copyright holder, then they are breaking the law. What is clear from the way they have approached the process in the US is that they have no intention whatsoever of trying to find any copyright holders - they intended to just go ahead and let copyright holders come to them when the results are a fait acompli. I think most copyright holders on out of print books would consider allowing the works to go on Googles books IF it was on equitable terms. Googles terms aren't equitable - they are simply that Google will make money, a select few authors in the US will get a small share, and anyone else will get nothing. And just for good measure, Google will have sewn up the market such that no-one else would stand a chance of setting up a competing scheme that actually DID pay the copyright holder a share of revenues.
Chances are that, hopefully not for a long time, I'll inherit the copyright in mothers works - which in cash terms are worth very, very little (unless by some freak happening, one of them got picked up and made into a film - I'm not holding my breath !) What I'll do then I don't know. What I do know is that I'd be mightily annoyed to have someone come along and just take the works, profit from them, and hand over nothing in return. If they offered to share any profit then I'd probably go along with it - and I could even save them the cost/effort of producing an imperfect scan by handing over the digital files originally used for printing.