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Court Allows Class-action Against Google Digital Books
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On Thursday, U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin in Manhattan allowed class-action status to a lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild against Google making it possible for thousands of authors to now sue Google over its digital books policy. The court also rejected Google’s petition to dismiss the class-action which would have forced authors to sue Google individually. The case clumps together claims by the Authors Guild and several groups representing photographers, graphic artists and authors.

The plaintiffs allege that Google’s plans for its library, which would be including millions of out-of-print works, would lead to “massive copyright infringement.” The case is already seven years old and followed Google’s 2004 agreement with a number of big research libraries to digitally copy and store books and other writings with the goal of helping researchers and the public. Since then, Google has already scanned and stored more than 12 million books and has said it would be providing only snippets of the works to the public which is “fair use” under U.S. copyright law.

The court held that rather than having numerous and disparate lawsuits risking higher costs it would be more efficient if authors sued as a group since the substantive questions of law would be the same. The court also observed that it would be unjust to compel members of the Authors Guild, or members of the American Society of Media Photographers and other groups to sue individually “given the sweeping and undiscriminating nature of Google’s unauthorized copying.”


The present lawsuit combines separately filed actions stretching from those started in 2005 to the lawsuit filed in 2010 on behalf of photographers and graphic artists.

A Google spokeswoman issued an email saying: “As we’ve said all along, we are confident that Google Books is fully compliant with copyright law.”

In March 2011, the court had rejected a proposed $125 million settlement offer from Google saying that the proposed settlement went “too far” and allowed Google to effectively carry on “wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission.”

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The cases are:

The Authors Guild et al v. Google Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 05-08136

American Society of Media Photographers et al v. Google Inc in the same court, No. 10-02977



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