US Appeal Court Rules Google’s Book Scanning Project legal

A decade long dispute has finally come to an end after a US appeals court has today ruled that Google’s efforts to digitalize books for a massive online library does not breach copyrights laws. It has rejected infringement claims from the Authors Guild and several individual writers.

The authors initiated legal proceedings against Google in 2005, this was one year after the launch of the project. They complained that the scanning of the material illegally deprived them of revenue.

Google argued that the project would in fact boost sales, by making it far easier for readers to find and locate works and it would also introduce them to books they might otherwise not have seen.
Google Inc. has made digital copies of tens of millions of books from major libraries and has established a publicly available search function. The plan was to ultimately scan over 100 million books, including material from the New York Public Library, Library of Congress and several major universities.

In 2013 the circuit Judge Denny Chin, who oversaw the case at the lower court level, dismissed the litigation in 2013, prompting the authors’ appeal. Chin ruled in November 2013 that Google’s digitalization of over 20 million books, mostly out of print titles did not violate copyright laws as Google only showed short sections of the book in its database. He had commented that it would be difficult for anyone to read any of the books in their entirety by repeatedly entering different requests in the search function. He found Google’s scanning of tens of millions of books and posting “snippets” online constituted “fair use” under US Copyright law.

The appeals court has today agreed saying “Google has constructed the snippet feature in a manner that substantially protects against its serving as an effectively competing substitute for plaintiff’s books.” The appeals court further stated that Google’s profit motivation does not in these circumstances justify denial of what is a fair use of the books’ content.

The appeals court in a ruling written by Judge Pierre N. Leval stated “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, it continued “many of the most universally accepted forms of fair use, such as news reporting and commentary, quotation in historical or analytic books, reviews of books, performances, as well as parody are all normally done commercially for profit.”

Neither party were immediately available for comment.


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