Google began yesterday giving authors and publishers who have made their work available under Creative Commons licenses a way to distribute their books via Google Books. The company has partnered with Creative Commons to allow rightsholders to enable readers to download, share and reuse PDFs of CC-licensed books via Google Books.

Authors and publishers can grant readers the right to share works or to modify and “remix” them. The rightsholder can decide whether commercial use is allowed, and may dedicate their book to the public domain, if they wish. Rightsholders who are already part of Google’s Partner Program, a venture that scans books and displays them online with permission, and now has more than 20,000 participants (including all of the major houses), can make their books available under CC by updating account settings. If they aren’t part of the program, they can sign up as a partner and select from one of seven Creative Commons licenses (usage permissions will vary depending on the license).

Going forward, Google plans to let users turn on the option to restrict their searches to books they can share if the Google Book Search settlement is approved. Reps from the Book Rights Registry will allow rightsholders to distribute CC-licensed works for free, pending court approval of the settlement.

Lawrence Lessig, Cory Doctorow and other authors have already made their CC books available for download on Google Books.