Today marks yet another big victory for libraries in the courts. U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin has issued a judgment in Authors Guild v. Google, ruling in favor of Google and thereby dismissing the case. At issue is whether Google’s scanning of over 20 million copies of books, largely received from university libraries, to create a searchable database constitutes a fair use under copyright law. Judge Chin’s ruling is an emphatic affirmation that yes, the Google Book Search project is a fair use.
The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), of which ALA is a member, submitted an amicus brief (pdf) on behalf of Google before the oral arguments in September. In his judgment, Judge Chin referenced LCA’s brief, writing that the Google Book Search “has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books.” He continues, “It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life.”
This case originated in 2005 when the Authors Guild sued Google in a class action suit over its then newly started digitization project. Since then, it has taken many twists and turns before leading to today’s ruling. For a complete timeline of the case, see LCA counsel Jonathan Band’s flowchart (pdf).
ALA president Barbara Stripling celebrated this important decision for libraries:
ALA applauds the decision to dismiss the long running Google Books case. This ruling furthers the purpose of copyright by recognizing that Google’s Book search is a transformative fair use that advances research and learning. Judge Chin’s recognition of users’ rights to information will have a profound impact on copyright policy for years to come.
It is expected that the Authors Guild will appeal this judgment. Despite this, today’s decision is yet another example of a huge victory for libraries in court cases regarding copyright. This decision bodes particularly well for the upcoming Authors Guild v. HathiTrust court proceeding, a similar case. Judge Chin agreed with the fair use analysis presented by the HathiTrust Digital Library in that case, suggesting that another favorable decision could be right around the corner.
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