Authors Guild claimed that Google’s book scanning illegally deprived them of revenue.
Google must now be breathing a sigh of relief as a U.S. appeals court has recently ruled that the company’s ambitious project of having millions of books digitized for an online library does not constitute copyright infringement.
This decision by the courts put to rest claims from a group of authors who argued that the scanning of their books violates the copyright law and thus deprives them of revenue.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York threw out the infringement claims from the Authors Guild as well as several individual writers, and found that the project provides a public good without violating intellectual property law.
However, Google argued that their project would not only make it easier for accessing information regarding the authors’ work but also promotes the work of the authors.
Google had also argued that it would cost the company billions of dollars in potential damages if the judge had ruled in favor of the plaintiff.
After the dismissal of the case in 2013 by Circuit Judge Denny Chin, the authors were dissatisfied with the ruling and therefore appealed the case.
At the time, Chin found Google’s scanning of tens of millions of books and posting “snippets” online constituted “fair use” under U.S. copyright law.
Now, a unanimous three-judge appeals panel said the case “tests the boundaries of fair use,” but found Google’s practices were ultimately allowed under the law.
“Google’s division of the page into tiny snippets is designed to show the searcher just enough context surrounding the searched term to help her evaluate whether the book falls within the scope of her interest (without revealing so much as to threaten the author’s copyright interests),” Circuit Judge Pierre Leval wrote for the court.
The 2nd Circuit had previously rejected a similar lawsuit from the Authors Guild in June 2014 against a consortium of universities and research libraries that built a searchable online database of millions of scanned works.
Google Books began after the company agreed with several major research libraries to digitize current and out-of-print books from their collections.
The individual plaintiffs who filed the proposed class action against Google included former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton, the author of the acclaimed memoir, “Ball Four.”
Davy Desmond, Readers Bureau, Fellow
Editing by Jesus Chan
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