Copyright Law

Judge rules Google's book-scanning project is fair use

A federal judge ruled on Thursday that Google’s book scanning project amounts to fair use under the copyright law.

U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin dismissed the suit filed in 2005 by the Authors Guild, report the New York Law Journal, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog (sub. req.), Wired and the New York Times. Chin continued as trial judge in the case after his elevation to the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Google has scanned more than 20 million books since it began the project in 2004. Internet users who search in Google books can see snippets from the publications but not entire books.

Chin said the copying is transformative and provides significant public benefits. Among those benefiting are authors, who are getting an expanded market for their books; scholars who have greater ability to analyze data; and potential readers who can click on a link to buy books after reading the snippet. “Indeed, all society benefits,” Chin wrote in the decision (PDF).

The Authors Guild said it plans to appeal. Google issued a statement saying it is delighted by the 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,” the statement said.

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