Google’s decade-long Online Library case is over (for now)

Chris Burns - Oct 16, 2015, 12:01 pm CDT
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Google’s decade-long Online Library case is over (for now)

An appeals court has agreed with a 2013 ruling by Judge Denny Chin that Google’s digitization of 20 million books did not violate copyright laws. Google’s snippet feature – or snippet view, if you prefer – shows only a tiny portion of any given book at a time. As such, it has been ruled that any reading of an entire book would be far too great an undertaking to consider realistic. “Snippet view,” said the appeals court ruling, “at best and after a large commitment of manpower, produces discontinuous, tiny fragments, amounting in the aggregate to no more than 16% of a book.”

“This does not threaten the rights holders with any significant harm to the value of their copyrights,” continued the appeal court ruling, “or diminish their harvest of copyright revenue.” No one book can be accessed in its entirety free of charge without this snippet view feature on Google’s online library. As such, the court has ruled against the 2005 contention as raised by the Authors Guild (and a number of independent artists), and for Google’s defense.

See the 2013 ruling upheld this week (in 2015): Google Books wins court case with fair use.

Google’s motivation for creating this library – even if it was for profit – did nothing to sway the decision of the court. “We see no reason in this case why Google’s overall profit motivation should prevail as a reason for denying fair use over its highly convincing transformative purpose,” said the appeals court ruling.

“Many of the most universally accepted forms of fair use,” continued the ruling, “such as news reporting and commentary, quotation in historical or analytic books, reviews of books, and performances, as well as parody, are all normally done commercially for profit.”

Fair use it is! In that Google’s use of the works offer no meaningful substitute for the books they utilize – read: ability to be read in full, without purchase, in this case – Google’s project remains within the realm of fair use.

For more information you can access the full ruling from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York


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