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US court rules tech company’s online library ‘benefits society’ and would actually lead to increased sales of books
A New York court has dismissed a lawsuit against Google by authors who accused the internet giant of digitally copying millions of books for an online library without permission.
US circuit judge Denny Chin, in Manhattan, accepted Google’s argument that its scanning of more than 20m books, and making snippets of text available for online searches, constituted fair use under US copyright law.
Authors had asked for $750 ( 479) for every book the search giant scanned without authorisation as part of its controversial Google Books programme. They were also claiming statutory damages of $750 for each book Google had copied, distributed or displayed in violation of copyright law. Google had estimated that it could owe more than $3bn if the class action succeeded.
But the judge said the massive library makes it easier for students, teachers, researchers and the public to find books, while maintaining “respectful consideration” for authors’ rights. He also said the digitisation was “transformative,” and could be expected to boost rather than reduce book sales.
“In my view, Google Books provide significant public benefits,” Chin wrote. “Indeed, all society benefits.”
The decision on Thursday is a turning point for litigation that began in 2005, when authors and publishers sued Google over its digital books plan.
The case was filed by The Authors Guild, an association of writers led by bestselling thriller writer Scott Turow. The named plaintiffs in the motion were authors Betty Miles, Joseph Goulden and Jim Bouton, the former New York Yankees pitcher.
Neither Google nor Michael Boni, a partner at Boni & Zack, the law firm representing authors, responded immediately to requests for comment.
In March 2011, Chin rejected a $125m settlement, saying it raised copyright and antitrust issues by giving Google a “de facto monopoly” to copy books en masse. The publishers eventually settled in October 2012.
In July, the second US circuit court of appeals found that Chin had prematurely certified a class of authors without first evaluating the fair use defence. Chin oversaw the case as a trial judge, and kept jurisdiction after joining the second Circuit.