Good news for fans of Google Books. Google will not be taking down its online archive of over 20 million digitally scanned books. In a unanimous decision, the United State Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently dismissed a lawsuit commenced by a group of authors accusing Google of massive copyright infringement.
Ten years ago, Google struck a deal with several large research libraries which enabled it to digitally scan and copy more than 20 million books. Google named this “The Google Library Project”. Google Books does not allow online free access to the full text of a book. Instead, it limits the number of pages in a book that is available for free viewing.
The Plaintiffs, The Authors Guild, which was made up of individual authors and publishers, claimed that Google, by making digital copies of their books, without the permission of rights holders, had committed copyright infringement. Google relied on the fair use defence under US Copyright Law. The Authors Guild argued otherwise, and further claimed that Google’s actions creates the risk that hackers will gain unauthorised access to the digital books and reproduce full copies of them.
The Court of Appeals of the Second Circuit found Google’s use of the books to be highly transformative in a way that it expands its utility for the benefit of the public at large. Further, even though Google’s use was commercial in nature and motivated by profits from advertisements, this factor did not automatically disqualify it from being a fair use.
This decision comes as no surprise and reactions to the ruling were mainly positive. Some libraries and renowned authors have even advised the Plaintiffs to “wisen up and focus their energies on more productive pursuits”.