It’s hard to imagine a copyright lawsuit going on for eight years, but that is exactly what has happened with Google, after a lawsuit was initiated against the search giant in 2005. The Authors Guild sued Google because of its online Google Books service, which has grown into the largest book scanning project on the internet.
According to the Authors Guild, Google was infringing on the copyrights held by book publishers, simply because it was scanning the books and selling digital versions of the text. While the lawsuit continued on for quite some time, a federal appeals court has finally ruled that Google Books has operated within the “fair use” policies of copyright laws.
Not only did Judge Denny Chin rule in favor of Google with the lawsuit, but he also supported Google Books as a great public service. Since Books launched in 2004, it has been an important resource for researchers and students in particular, since it has made otherwise rare and expensive books accessible with just an internet connection.
Some of these books have been out of print for many years, and out of the 20 million books currently on Google Books, many of them are not even covered by copyrights.
That being said, for the millions of books that are covered by copyrights, the Authors Guild was attempting to win $750 per book in the lawsuit, which would have amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars. Chin rejected a $125 million settlement which was put forth in 2011 and it took another two years for Chin to come to this decision.
“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 the fair use defense.”
– Authors Guild’s executive director Paul Aiken
As one would expect, the Authors Guild is extremely unhappy with Chin’s decision, but the same cannot be said for Google.
“This has been a long road, and we are absolutely delighted with today’s judgment. As we have long said, Google Books is in compliance with copyright law and acts like a card catalog for the digital age, giving users the ability to find books to buy or borrow.”
Google Books is a great service for multiple reasons (many of which were brought up by Judge Chin.) Aggregating millions of books online and combining that collection with Google’s powerful search technology has produced one of the best online resources for many researchers and students trying to find information on a topic.