Google Copyright Case Delayed, For Now
September 18, 2012

Appeals Court Delays Google Copyright Case

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A federal appeals court sided with Google on Monday when it ruled to delay a court challenge to the company´s plans to build a vast digital library.

Judge Raymond J. Lohier Jr. of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan granted Google´s request to stay a lower court ruling while an appeals panel considers whether authors of the books should receive class status.

The ruling further extends a copyright dispute that began seven years ago, when Circuit Judge Denny Chin of the lower district court began hearing the case.

The case involved a lawsuit filed by The Authors Guild against Google over its plan to digitally scan millions of books from public and university libraries to provide small excerpts of text to users of its Internet search engine.

Google argued that the display of those snippets is fair use under current copyright law.

Judge Lohier said on Monday that his stay was not a ruling on Google´s likelihood of prevailing in its appeal, and noted that the Authors Guild did not file any opposition to Google´s request.

According to court documents, Google had sought to delay the trial due to “the prospect of a class-wide defeat -- with a judgment of potentially billions of dollars -- or a greatly diminished victory.”

“A stay is necessary to prevent this anomalous result,” the Mountain View, CA- based company said.

Last month, Judge Chin, sitting as a lower court trial judge in the case, denied Google´s request to halt the trial, and ordered proceedings to continue.

In May, Chin rejected Google´s argument that lawsuits by the Authors Guild and the American Society of Media Photographers should be dismissed because the groups lacked standing to sue for copyright infringement. The following month, Chin granted the case class-action status, the ruling Google is now appealing.

In court documents filed last week, Google said the class “contains millions of different books written by hundreds of thousands of authors, many of whom believe they benefit from and approve of Google Books.”

Class representatives “seeking to dismantle Google Books cannot adequately represent absent class members who support the project,” Google said.

Without a stay, the district court will consider and likely rule on the principal merits in the case before the appeals court reaches its final ruling on class certification, Google said in its court papers.

Without a halt to the lower court case, “class members will have an incentive to opt-out if Google prevails but not if plaintiffs prevail, which would seriously prejudice Google.”

Representatives for Google and the Authors Guild have not yet commented on Monday´s ruling.

The case is Authors Guild Inc. v. Google Inc., 12-3200, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Manhattan.

The authors´ case in the lower court is Authors Guild v. Google, 05-08136; the visual artists´ case is American Society of Media Photographers v. Google, 10-02977; U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Manhattan.