Google Wins Big as Judge Rules Against Authors Guild in Decade Long Book Scanning Case

Posted on November 15, 2013

It's all over but the crying. And the appeals, of course. The Authors Guild was dealt a devastating blow today by federal judge Denny Chin. He ruled for Google in the book scanning case, saying that Google's massive digitization project which scanned millions of books without getting the authors' permission first is protected fair use under copyright laws.

The Authors Guild has fought for a decade to stop the scanning of copyright-protected material that Google makes available for search on its Google Books website. Authors Guild Executive Director Paul Aikin said in a statement: "We disagree with and are disappointed by the court's decision today. This case presents a fundamental challenge to copyright that merits review by a higher court. Google made unauthorized digital editions of nearly all of the world's valuable copyright-protected literature and profits from displaying those works. In our view, such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of fair use defense. We plan to appeal the decision."

When analyzing whether Google's use of the works was fair use, the judge noted that Google stopped displaying ads around the searchable book text in 2011, and that Google does not directly sell the books. But Judge Chin said it was fine that Google benefited commercially from the scanning project. In fact, it's clear that he absolutely loves Google Books. He says his law clerks use Google Books to search and he said the service benefits authors, researchers, librarians and scholars everywhere. He stopped short of saying Google Books would usher in a new era of global peace and prosperity, but it was close. You can read his entire decision here.

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