This is how I always describe Google Book Search (GBS) – it’s an index, and in this case, a truly magnificent one.
Today we learned that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s summary judgment that the GBS is a transformative fair use, so it’s happy days for people in library land. Many will know that this Authors Guild v Google litigation has been going on for years with many twists and turns. See Jonathan Band’s cool chart (which now needs to be updated!)
The appeals court ruling included a statement that “the exclusive rights of copyright do not include the exclusive right to supply information” about books. I think this is the key to what the Authors Guild (and others) did not understand. Even though copyrighted works were scanned in their entirety, the original, creative expression—that which is protected by copyright—is not infringed. The scanning implicates individual words in books (and these words can be searched in order to find books). It all seems very straightforward to me—no one holds copyright in words, thank God.
Trying to squeeze out a dollar for words surely does not advance the progress of science and the useful arts. And, imagine the chaos of people trying to register words for copyright protection. Now that would be a burden for rights holders.