Google wins book scan battle. Again. Can post pages online. Again

Appeals court brushes off Authors Guild, says snippet searches are just fine


A US appeals court has today ruled that Google Books does not infringe on US copyright.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld a 2013 verdict from a district court that Google's scan-every-book-possible project is protected as "fair use."

The Authors Guild had charged that Google was violating its copyrights when the Chocolate Factory digitized books it received on loan from libraries.

The digitized books were then made searchable through the Google Books service, allowing readers to hunt for phrases and read excerpts of the titles. Netizens who want to view the full texts can purchase the ebooks through Google, search for a library loaning the print book, or purchase a copy through online booksellers Google links in its search results. Some out-of-print titles are available to read in full.

Google had countered that it does not offer full titles to read, but merely allows users to view excerpts from the books. Both the District Court of Southern New York and the Court of Appeals agreed, saying the index meets the criteria for fair use.

Rather than violating copyright and taking sales away from authors, the court said, Google's service makes it easier for readers to find books and authors, and later make purchases.

"Google’s making of a digital copy to provide a search function is a transformative use, which augments public knowledge by making available information about Plaintiffs’ books without providing the public with a substantial substitute for matter protected by the Plaintiffs’ copyright interests in the original works or derivatives of them," the appeals court said in its ruling [PDF].

"The same is true, at least under present conditions, of Google’s provision of the snippet function."

The court goes on to dismantle the arguments of the Authors Guild that Google was violating author rights over derivative works stating "an author’s derivative rights do not include an exclusive right to supply information," and shooting down the contention that Google could facilitate copyright violation should a hacker breach the Books archive.

"Plaintiffs have failed to show a material issue of fact in dispute," the court concludes.

The ruling means that, short of taking the decision to the Supreme Court, the case is now all but over. ®

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