Authors Guild Appeals Lower Court Decision Backing Google’s Book Digitizing Project
The issue is whether Google’s project violates the copyrights of some of the millions of scanned books, or whether it has a valid “fair use” exception.
Google’s ambitious effort to digitize millions of paper books — and make them searchable — may be entering a new legal phase.
According to a story in this weekend’s Jurist, The Authors Guild and three of its author-members filed a petition on New Year’s Eve asking the US Supreme Court to review a lower court’s decision that backed Google.
The petition says:
Google made full digital copies of millions of books it obtained from libraries’ shelves without the authors’ consent. As payment, Google gave the libraries digital copies of the books. Google makes the books’ full text searchable on its revenue-generating search engine, and displays verbatim excerpts in response to users’ searches.
The plaintiffs have contended that millions of the 20 million books already scanned are still protected by copyright and that Google digitized them “without permission of rights holders.”
Users can employ Google’s search engine to look for specific words or terms in the books, and they’ll see snippets of text containing the terms. Participating university libraries can also keep digital copies of the books they have made available. Google has contended that its project is covered under “fair use.”
In October, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that Google’s scanning project — which has been going on since 2004 — qualifies as permissible fair use. Google noted that it offers limited online access plus the ability for readers to purchase at least some of the books.
That case was brought by the Authors Guild and the three authors — Betty Miles, Jim Bouton and Joseph Goulden — as well as McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, Simon & Schuster, John Wiley & Sons and others.
In its new petition, The Authors Guild asked the Supreme Court to determine whether Google’s use qualifies as a “transformative” fair use exception to copyright, as well as whether the “transformative purpose” should be the decisive factor, as the Second Circuit determined.