Today, Google was found to not be in violation of any copyright infringement associated with its scanning of an enormous catalog of books to Google Play. A U.S. appeals court found Google to be acting in what is termed “fair use” under copyright law. In 2005, a number of authors form the Authors Guild sued Google, which had in the year before commenced its attempt to list as many scanned books online as possible, with numbers now in the millions. Google offers these e-books on its online store, alongside apps and digital music. Many classic novels are also available for free. The Authors Guild opposed the movement, saying Google was causing them to lose out on potential revenue.
The search giant insists the project was not impeding revenue, and instead increased the chances an author’s work could be found. It’s recommendation to readers is more likely to expose them to new material than wandering around a book shop. Authors were also opposed to Google’s practice of allowing those viewing a book and contemplating purchase to read a short excerpt, called a snippet, from the work. If found guilty, the search company would owe authors billions of dollars in damages.
The case was first brought to Circuit Judge Denny Chin. In 2013, Chin rejected the lawsuit, siding with Google. The Authors Guild was not satisfied and appealed the court decision to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, where a panel consisting of three judges took over. The collection of writers was hoping the appeals court would decide Google’s book scanning and marketing would violate copyright laws, which only allow a certain level of distribution called “fair use”. All three of the judges again sided with Google in a ruling passed down today, saying that, although Google is perhaps a little too close to the limits of fair use, its project to scan millions of books is legal. The use of snippets was not condemned either, with the judges deciding it did not give away enough of a work for the author’s copyright to be violated. Google stands by its position as explained by spokesman Aaron Stein, who said, “Google Books gives them [consumers] a useful and easy way to find books they want to read and buy, while at the same time benefiting copyright holders.” The company has had trouble with publishers in the past as well, but hopefully this latest ruling will mark the end of litigation against the tech company.