US Authors Guild Loses In Court Against Google Books
November 15, 2013

US Authors Guild Loses In Court Against Google Books

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

The latest chapter in the ongoing saga of Google Books and whether it constituted “fair use” is over, but whether the book is closed on the matter has yet to be determined.

On Thursday Google Inc. won a dismissal in a long-running lawsuit by the US Authors Guild, which sued the search giant, alleging that its plans to create a digital library in essence amounted to copyright infringement. Google was able to defeat the legal action, which aimed to stop it from scanning and uploading millions of books.

In its defense Google said its plans fell into the context of “fair use” because it would only make excerpts of the texts available online.

The Authors Guild charged that an online library was in fact in violation of “fair use,” even by just providing the snippets of work. The Authors Guild was seeking $750 for each copyrighted book that was to be digitized, which could have resulted in a huge sum, given that Google had already scanned more than 20 million books.

Google had faced a settlement of more than $3 billion, but for now it won’t have to dish out anything. US District Judge for the Southern District of New York Denny Chin ruled in favor of the search giant.

He dismissed the eight-year-old copyright infringement case, and said that the massive book-digitization project doesn’t actually violate copyright law. He further went on to describe the ways in which he said he believes that the effort can actually benefit writers, readers, scholars, libraries and even the public-at-large.

“Google’s use of copyrighted works is highly transformative,” wrote Chin in his decision. “Words in books are being used in a way they have not been used before.”

“In my view, Google Books provide significant public benefits,” Chin added. “Indeed, all society benefits.”

“This is a huge victory for Google, which had previously tried to resolve legal issues regarding Google Books by class-action settlement,” Mark McKenna, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, told USA Today.

Google responded that it was delighted by the decision.

“This has been a long road and we are absolutely delighted with today’s judgment,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement reported by Bloomberg. “As we have long said, Google Books is in compliance with copyright law and acts like a card catalog for the digital age, giving users the ability to find books to buy or borrow.”

The BBC reported that this decision would also make a significant milestone in the case that began in 2005. Initially it looked as if all these battles could have been avoided, as many authors and even publishers negotiated with Google, which led to a 2008 settlement that would have involved Google paying $125 million into a fund to be used to compensate the writers of copyrighted material that would appear in the digital library.

This settlement agreement was thrown out of US Court in 2011, after the court ruled this gave Google a “de facto monopoly” to copy books.

While this latest chapter has been completed, the Authors Guild vows to continue on to the next.

“We disagree with and are disappointed by the court’s decision today,” Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken said in a statement. “This case presents a fundamental challenge to copyright that merits review by a higher court. Google made unauthorized digital editions of nearly all of the world’s valuable copyright-protected literature and profits from displaying those works. In our view, such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of fair use defense.”

“We plan to appeal the decision,” Aiken added.