Google Books wins court case with “fair use”

Nov 14, 2013
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Google Books wins court case with “fair use”

The lawsuit filed by the Authors' Guild directed towards Google and their project Google Books has ended with Google the victor. According to US District Judge Denny Chin, the plaintiffs' suggestions that Google Books would hurt the market for the original work did not add up against what the project is actually capable of doing. The case ended up centering around "snippets" of books and the idea that Google Books search abilities would or would not result in prospective consumers of these books downloading rather than purchasing books in the Google Books collection.

The Google Books program allows users to search through literature and find snippets of books - and in some cases full books as such. US District Judge Denny Chin found the plaintiffs' accusations of Google Books taking a swipe at copyright law to be less than impressive.

"[P]laintiffs argue that Google Books will negatively impact the market for books and that Google's scans will serve as a "market replacement" for books. [The complaint] also argues that users could put in multiple searches, varying slightly the search terms, to access an entire book.

Neither suggestion makes sense. Google does not sell its scans, and the scans do not replace the books. While partner libraries have the ability to download a scan of a book from their collections, they owned the books already—they provided the original book to Google to scan. Nor is it likely that someone would take the time and energy to input countless searches to try and get enough snippets to comprise an entire book." - US District Judge Denny Chin

The Google Books program allows users to search through books and offers bibliographic information, information about the author, references, editions released to the public, chapter contents, related books, and reviews. Users are also able to buy the book straight through Google Play and access the book from the same console from that point forward in full.

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There are also links to retailers with each book that's still in print, these including such names as Macmillan, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and IndieBound. Google Books also provides connections to libraries where users will be able to check the book out at their leisure.

"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." - Google Statement

While Google suggests that they're encouraged by the ruling, saying in a statement that they've been on this road for quite a while at this point.

"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" - Paul Aiken, Authors Guild Executive Director

Meanwhile the Guild is not quite so happy. They've made clear that they intend to appeal the point and will be back in court as soon as possible. Have a peek at the timeline below to see additional points along the path that's lead the court to this - perhaps final - resting place.


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