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Google Book projet

Summary: A court has ruled against a group of authors, determining that Google may scan and make books partially available in its online library. 

Google can move forward with scanning books into its giant, online library–a process it started in 2005. On Friday, a three-judge panel on the Second Circuit rendered an expansive ruling for the software giant against the Authors Guild.


The Authors Guild claimed the project would take away from their revenue and infringe on their intellectual property. However, the court disagreed, saying Google may continue building the online library under “fair use.”

According to Judge Level, who authored the opinion, fair use promotes “copyright’s very purpose.” According to the Court, “The ultimate goal of copyright is to expand public knowledge and understanding . . . Thus, while authors are undoubtedly important intended beneficiaries of copyright, the ultimate, primary intended beneficiary is the public, whose access to knowledge copyright seeks to advance by providing rewards for authorship.”

In addition to providing a public service, Google believes that giving away previews of books will actually increase authors’ revenue. The company thinks more people will be exposed to the books this way, increasing the chance of a sale.

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The panel of judges did acknowledge that Google’s project was pushing the law. But because the company only provides a little bit of the book so the reader can determine whether to buy it, it’s OK. Per the court, while a commercial motivation on the part of 
the secondary user weighs against him or her, “We see no reason in this 
case why Google’s overall profit motivation should prevail as a reason for denying fair use over 
its highly convincing transformative purpose.”

The Court goes on to say that the fact Google only makes small portions available, subject to a variety of restrictions, favors fair use. While the Authors Guild tried to argue that a reader could cobble together several excerpts to substitute for the original, the Court was not moved by this argument. Additionally, the Court shot down the Guild’s argument that a malevolently-intentioned hacker could break into the database and make the books freely available online.

Legal experts are calling the decision a landmark case for fair use. A Google spokesperson said of the decision, “Today’s decision underlines what people who use the service tell us: Google Books gives them a useful and easy way to find books they want to read and buy, while at the same time benefiting copyright holders.” Had the authors won, Google would have been exposed to billions in damages.

The Authors Guild is saying it will seek review from the Supreme Court.


Sources:, The Atlantic




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