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Google Wins Book-Scanning Lawsuit with ‘Fair Use’ Ruling

Nov 15 2013, 3:57am CST | by , in News | Misc

Google Wins Book-Scanning Lawsuit with ‘Fair Use’ Ruling
Image Credit: Google

A book scanning lawsuit that a group of authors had brought against Google has finally ended in the search engine’s favor. Judge states many benefits of the Google book scanning and called it a 'fair use'. It had been dragging on for eight years.

Various disgruntled authors had joined hands to collectively sue Google for what they perceived to be copyright infringement. The lawsuit they filed against Google claimed that the search engine giant had scanned excerpts from over 20 million books without the prior permission of the authors. 

Google began the practice as a part of its book project. The execs at Google defended themselves by saying that it was a catalogue system to help the public identify books they wanted to later on buy. But the group of writers said that the snippets excerpts were lent to online browsers free of charge and without any express allowance by the authors. The judge however ruled in favor of Google. 

US Circuit Judge Denny Chin issued his ruling on Thursday morning in New York. He said, “In my view, Google Books provides significant public benefits. It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders. It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books. It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.

Freedom of information has been a controversial topic. The debate began with the inception of the Internet which has decentralized the process of information relay. What was once withheld from public scrutiny is now there for everyone to peruse in cyberspace. Google laid out the facts plainly for all to see. It had no such intention of treading on the rights of the writers. 

The excerpts and blurbs did not constitute copyright theft in any way. The judge said that since it was a cultural service that Google was rendering, the case went in its favor. However, the authors are still angry and want to appeal the case in a higher court. 

In an emailed statement, Author’s Guild Executive Director Paul Aiken said, “We disagree with and are disappointed by the court’s decision today. 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 the fair use defense.

The people at Google were overjoyed to hear the news that the decision went in their favor. Google states in an email, “This has been a long road and we are absolutely delighted with today’s judgement. 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.

Source: GigaOm, Wired

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