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Judge Dismisses Copyright Challenge to Google’s Digital Books Program

November 14th, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , ,

Google has dodged a major legal challenge to a controversial but popular feature that makes millions of books available online.  A federal judge today said the Google Books program does not violate the copyright privileges of authors.

Google Books uses high-tech scanning technology to convert books to digital format, and then posts versions of the works online. Most of the time, Google makes a book available without getting permission from or compensating its author.

The case has bounced around the court system since 2005, when the Author’s Guild and others sued Google over its digital text program. The parties came close to settling in 2011, but a judge concerned that it would grant Google a monopoly in the area threw out the deal.

U.S Circuit Court Judge Denny Chin issued his decision rejecting the copyright claim against Google this morning, finding the digital books program was “fair use.”

The fair use defense allows the use of copyrighted works for criticism, news reporting, scholarship, research, and other areas that represent a public benefit rather than a commercial exploitation.  Judge Chin explained that fair use is good public policy because it “provides sufficient protection to authors and inventors to stimulate creative activity, while at the same time permitting others to utilize protected works to advance the progress of the arts and sciences.”

Judge Chin highlighted several factors he believed warranted granting the defense, including:

1)   Google’s use is transformative, taking physical copies of books and converting them to fully indexed, and searchable digital documents.

2)   The digital books do not supercede or supplant the original works.  The online copies are usually limited “snippets” and do not allow users to read a book cover-to-cover.

3)   Google receives limited commercial benefit from the use.  It does not sell ads or charge a fee to use the feature.

The judge found that overall, Google Books is an important research tool that expands access to knowledge and helps preserve the texts themselves.

The decision paves the way for Google to move forward with its program, with a potential roadblock in the future if Author’s Guild decides to appeal.  However, with 8 years and millions of dollars in legal fees already spent, such a move may not be in order.

Posted in Author's Guild, copyright, copyright infringement, Google, Legal, Licensing, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights | No Comments »

Authors Guild v. Google: Case Dismissed

November 14th, 2013 by Mickey Osterreicher

In a 30 page decision, Circuit Court Judge Denny Chin granted Google’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the Authors Guild copyright infringement case against Google.

The authors had accused Google of digitally copying millions of books without permission for use in a searchable online library .

Earlier this year the U.S Court if Appeals for the Second Circuit sent the case back to Judge Chin after it held that he incorrectly  certified the  authors “class action” before determining Google’s “fair use” defense which he ultimately agreed with in today’s opinion. Unless another appeal is taken, this ruling will now allow Google to move forward with its plans.

The court adopted the argument that such scanning by Google provides a societal benefit and enhanced access to books while also protecting a “respectful consideration” of the authors’ rights. He also embraced the argument that such digitalization was  “transformative.” Judge Chin wrote, “Google Books provide significant public benefits,” adding, “Indeed, all society benefits” from “snippets” of these books being made available for online searches.

Today’s decision is the latest chapter in the case which was commenced in 2005, when authors and publishers sued Google over its digital books plan. The parties had reached a tentative $125M settlement  in 2011, but Judge Chin rejected it because he believed it raised copyright and antitrust issues by giving Google a “de facto monopoly” to copy books en masse. The publishers settled their claim against Google in 2012.

Posted in Author's Guild, copyright, copyright infringement, Fair Use, Google | No Comments »