Google wins copyright battle on book-scanning

By : |April 20, 2016 0

Google’s ambitious book-scanning project has cleared its final legal hurdle, with the US Supreme Court denying an appeal claiming that the tech company was breaching copyright laws. The top US court denied without comment a petition from the Authors Guild to hear the appeal of a 2013 federal court ruling seen as a landmark copyright decision for the digital era.

In this eleven years long legal battle, authors and their backers claimed Google was illegally scanning and digitizing millions of books without compensation to the copyright holders. But the ruling by federal judge Denny Chin, backed by an appellate court panel, said the colossal project in which Google allows users to search books and see snippets of a text was “fair use” under copyright law.

Google’s database of books lets people search through millions of titles and read passages and selected pages from them. While some of the books in the database are old titles that are no longer protected by copyright, millions are more recent publications. The Authors Guild had argued that the project undermined authors’ ability to make money from their work. Google, on the other hand, said its database was a “fair use” of protected works, describing it as “a card catalog for the digital age”.

Backers of Google contended that digitization offers numerous public benefits for researchers and others.

CIOL Google wins 11-year long copyright battle on book-scanning

The firm could have faced billions of dollars in damages claims from authors if it had lost the case. After Monday’s decision,Google said in a statement, “We are grateful that the court has agreed to uphold the decision of the Second Circuit (appeals court) which concluded that Google Books is trans-formative and consistent with copyright law.”

Tech giant added, “The product acts like a card catalog for the digital age by giving people a new way to find and buy books while at the same time advancing the interests of authors.”

The Authors Guild said it was disappointed. “Blinded by the public benefit arguments, the Second Circuit ruling tells us that Google, not authors, deserves to profit from the digitization of their books,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the authors group.

The ruling, she said, “misunderstood the importance of emerging online markets for books and book excerpts. It failed to comprehend the very real potential harm to authors resulting from its decision. The price of this short-term public benefit may well be the future vitality of American culture.”

The case, which dates back to 2005, centers on a Google program started in 2004 to create an electronic database of books that could be searchable by keywords.

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