Thursday, November 14, 2013

Google books case dismissed on fair use grounds

In Authors Guild v. Google, Google's motion for summary judgment dismissing the case on fair use grounds has been granted.

In a 30-page decision, Judge Denny Chin, who has been presiding over the case since its inception as a District Court Judge, but who is now a Circuit Court judge in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, reasoned that Google's "Library Project", which involved scanning books from libraries without permission of the copyright holders:

-was transformative in transforming "expressive text" into a "word index" and searchable data;
-does not supplant or supersede books since it is not a tool for reading books;
-adds value to the original;
-serves educational purposes, even though Google's own motive is commercial profit;
-limits the amount of text it displays in response to a search; and
-enhances, rather than detracts from, the value of the works.

Judge Chin concluded:

Google Books provides significant public benefits. 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. It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books. It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.

Similarly, Google is entitled to summary judgment with respect to plaintiffs' claims based on the copies of scanned books made available to libraries. Even assuming plaintiffs have demonstrated a prima facie case of copyright infringement, Google's actions constitute fair use here as well. Google provides the libraries with the technological means to make digital copies of books that they already own. The purpose of the library copies is to advance the libraries' lawful uses of the digitized books consistent with the copyright law. The libraries then use these digital copies in transformative ways. They create their own full-text searchable indices of books, maintain copies for purposes of preservation, and make copies available to print-disabled individuals, expanding access for them in unprecedented ways. Google's actions in providing the libraries with the ability to engage in activities that advance the arts and sciences constitute fair use.

Decision granting defendant's motion for summary judgment, November 14, 2013, Hon. Denny Chin, Circuit Judge

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