Judge Deems Google Book Scanning “Fair Use”

Judge Deems Google Book Scanning “Fair Use”
  • Opening Intro -

    The Google Books Library Project has the search engine giant cooperating with several major libraries to incorporate their collections within Google Books, a searchable online database that makes it easier for users to locate a book.


Typically, Google Books reveals limited information about a book from a few snippets of verbiage to several sentences. However, if the book is out of copyright, users can view and then download the entire book for free. That latter act is what has some authors and publishers upset.

Judge: Fair Use

Google’s Library Project has been challenged by authors and publishers who have sued Google for copyright infringement. However, in a Nov. 2013 decision, US federal judge Denny Chin dismissed the case, citing “fair use” under copyright law. Specifically, Chin said that Google’s service gives new life to old books and brings these books to an audience that would not otherwise find them.

The American Library Association and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) were among the groups that sided with Google. In a blog post for EFF, Corynne McSherry said that the judge’s decision was “…a good day for fair use and sane copyright law.”

The Library Project was launched in 2004 and the lawsuit was filed in 2005. Through its efforts, Google has been working with public and university libraries to digitize books to develop an enormous, searchable database. To date, Google has scanned more than 30 million books, enabling users to retrieve text at no charge.

Significant Public Benefits

Said Judge Chin in his ruling, “In my view, Google Books provides significant public benefits. It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders.”

The judge also dismissed concerns that Google Books users might assemble entire books based on repeatedly obtaining snippets. Chin noted that it is unlikely that anyone would invest time and resources to compile an entire book while also noting that the scanned books can generate new sales for authors. Google also supplies links to booksellers in a bid to help readers shop for books online.

Authors Guild Statement

Meanwhile, the Authors Guild expressed its disappointment with the judge’s ruling and issued the following statement:

“We disagree with and are disappointed by the court’s decision today,” Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken said. “This case presents a fundamental challenge to copyright that merits review by a higher court. Google made unauthorized digital editions of nearly all of the world’s valuable copyright-protected literature and profits from displaying those works. In our view, such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of fair use defense.”

“We plan to appeal the decision.”

College Students, Academic Research

For college students, having access to out-of-print books can be beneficial especially when conducting research. Students are no longer limited by time or geography as Google Books makes it possible for them to review and acquire media that might otherwise not be available to them.

See AlsoU.S. Supreme Court Weighs Book Resale Rights


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