Google Wins Fair Use Suit Against Authors

 

After an eight year battle and the scanning of more than 20 million books, a judge ruled in favor of Google’s ambitious project that aims to catalogue all books on a search engine.

Google began its operation by scanning books without seeking permission. The suit was brought in 2005 by authors and publishers seeking protection under copyright law.

However, U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin ruled in favor of Google deeming that the use of book “snippets” constitutes fair use under copyright law. Chin wrote that the digitization of the works was “transformative,” giving the use new purpose of character, and could possibly boost book sales rather than negatively impact the market.

“What Google is producing is data and not the underlying expression,” said Matthew Sag, law professor at Loyola University. “It doesn’t interfere with the author’s choice of how the work is presented to the public.”

While legal professionals and technology leaders commend the decision for future online innovation, author groups are not happy with the outcome.

“The union is disappointed with the ruling that was issued,” said book division co-chair Edward Hasbrouck of the National Writers Union. “We were not a party to the lawsuit, but we do continue to believe that Google’s practices violate writers’ copyrights.”

We talk with University of Chicago law professor Randal Picker regarding the ruling and what this means for future copyright law.