A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Google last week, arguing that the Google Books project falls under “fair-use” protections. The plaintiffs, led by the Authors Guild, had argued that the Google Books program infringes on copyright protections because Google scans the books and makes the full text available for online searches.
Google started the project in 2004 and has now scanned an estimated 20 million books, most of them out of print. Judge Denny Chin, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, recognized that Google did not seek permission before scanning the books. But he ruled that the issue fell under the “fair-use” doctrine.
“It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders,” Judge Chin wrote in his ruling. “Indeed, all society benefits.”
Nancy Sims, a copyright librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries, told the New York Times that the length of the court case — the lawsuit began in 2005 — may have helped Google significantly, because it effectively resolved many of the concerns about the scanning project.
“Seeing it in action may have had an influence on the strength of the fair use ruling here,” Sims said in the November 14 New York Times.
Ruling applies to more than Google
In her blog, Sims noted that the ruling applies to more than just the Google Books project.
“Like a lot of recent fair use cases, this case affirms the public interest elements of copyright, and how closely fair use is connected to those public interest elements, in kind of screamingly strong language,” she wrote. “For institutions that have been reluctant to engage with fair use, this opinion, and the HathiTrust opinion of last year, are extremely strong grounds for contemplating the application of fair use to digitization projects, exhibits, and other such publicly beneficial uses.”