Google Books Wins in Court, Closes One Copyright Chapter


A U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of Google Inc.’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Google Books Thursday. The Author’s Guild filed the suit against Google in 2005, saying that by digitizing, reproducing, and maintaining a copy the works for itself, “Google is engaging in massive copyright infringement.”

Judge Denny Chin determined “Google Books provides significant public benefits.” The way the service operates, Google Books has become a tool for researchers, especially in the field of Arts and Sciences, because they can do full text searches of books, and uncover “old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries.” Judge Chin said that in offering this service, Google was not violating copyright law. The “snippets of text” presented, “act as pointers directing users to a broad selection of books.” It transforms how the words are used into research purposes, and “does not supersede or supplant books because it is not a tool to be used to read books.”

Google does not profit directly from the digitization of the books either, Judge Chin ruled. The snippets provided are limited, and ultimately, Google Books will not take the place of published books. All of the factors combined led Judge Chin to the belief that Google was compliant with fair use copyright standards.

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

In October 2012, Google reached a copyright infringement settlement with the Association of American Publishers (or, AAP). When AAP announced the settlement, it said publishers in the U.S. could now opt out of the Google digitization project. Tom Allen, President and CEO of AAP, said at the time the group was “pleased” with the settlement. “It shows that digital services can provide innovative means to discover content while still respecting the rights of copyright-holders.”

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