August 22, 2012

Google Books: The Best Library Search Engine or Copyright Infringement?

Google cites everything from Mad Men to minority rights in a fresh attempt to bolster its claim that the scanning of millions of books qualifies as a “fair use” under copyright law. The arguments, set out in court filings submitted on Friday, come as Google’s long-running dispute with the Authors Guild heads toward an end game.

According to Google, its massive book scanning project is fair use because the scanning has delivered many public benefits without harming authors. The company claims that its creation of full-text book searching is “the most significant advance in library search technology in the last five decades” and that the Authors Guild has shown “no evidence that Google Books has displaced the sale of even a single book.”

The new filing (embedded below) is in response to Judge Denny Chin’s deadline for Google and the Authors Guild to submit arguments on why the case can be decided without a trial. This is just the latest phase of a legal dispute that began in 2005 after authors and publishers sued Google over its ambitious plan to create a massive digital library. The lawsuit was on ice for several years as the parties worked out a settlement that would have created an online market for the books. Judge Chin blew up the settlement in March 2011, however, after concluding that it was a “bridge too far.”

Chin now has to decide whether Google must pay for scanning each book without permission or whether the scanning amounted to “fair use.” The test for fair use involves looking at four factors, including whether the copying was “transformative” as well as the reproduction’s effect on the market for the original work.

Read More »