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Google Triumphs in Lawsuit Against Authors Guild Over Book Scanning

by Brandon Russell | November 14, 2013November 14, 2013 11:00 pm PST


After a long and very drawn out trial, a judge on Thursday threw out a lawsuit levied against Google by the Authors Guild. According to U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin, Google’s initiative to scan and digitize more than 20 million books for an online library is “transformative,” and will benefit students, teachers and research while respecting authors’ rights. The books being scanned by Google, which are made available in snippets, are constituted “fair use” under U.S. copyright law. Last year, Google reached an agreement with publishers in a similar lawsuit.

Litigation initially began back in 2005, with the Authors Guild demanding $750 for each book scanned, or about $3 billion overall. With Google winning out, the search giant is free to distribute and scan books in the public’s best interest and, barring an appeal, will let the company continue to expand its library.

“This is a big win for Google, and it blesses other search results that Google displays, such as news or images,” said James Grimmelmann, a University of Maryland intellectual property law professor. “It is also a good ruling for libraries and researchers, because the opinion recognizes the public benefit of making books available.”

In addition to making books more accessible to users, Judge Chin said he believes Google’s digitization efforts gives books a new purpose, and could lead to boosted sales, rather than having a negative effect. Indeed, since services like Pandora have hit the market, music sales have actually improved; the two ideas are in a way similar. The Authors Guild unsurprisingly plans to appeal, though is sounds like Google is pretty much in the clear.

Since the case got underway, the Authors Guild has argued that Google is making unauthorized copies, and is profiting by freely displaying those works. “Such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of the fair use defense,” argued Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild.

Google, of course, was pleased with Chin’s decision, and said that Google Books is in compliance with copyright law.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell likes to rollerblade while listening to ACDC.