The Authors Guild Versus Google - The New Year Edition

While many folks in publishing took some time off at the end of the year, the Authors Guild officially asked the Supreme Court to hear its case against Google. The Authors Guild filed a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court on December 31, 2015 for its dispute with Google over "fair use." For 10 years, the two parties (and many observers of the case) have been arguing about what constitutes fair use.

Back in 2002, Google began digitizing 20 million books to create its massive database. In 2004, Google Books was launched. On September 20, 2005, the Authors Guild filed a class action lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against Google. The Authors Guild argued that Google's Library Project involved "massive copyright infringement" because it created digital copies of copyrighted works. While the parties were working on a settlement, it was rejected by a district court judge in 2011 who deemed it unfair to authors. The case went back to court and in October (2015), New York's 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Google and ruled the firm had acted legally when it scanned works.

Judge Pierre Leval ruled that Google Books operates under the umbrella of fair use, stating

Google’s unauthorized digitizing of copyright-protected works, creation of a search functionality, and display of snippets from those works are non-infringing fair uses. The purpose of the copying is highly transformative, the public display of text is limited, and the revelations do not provide a significant market substitute for the protected aspects of the originals. Google’s commercial nature and profit motivation do not justify denial of fair use. Google’s provision of digitized copies to the libraries that supplied the books, on the understanding that the libraries will use the copies in a manner consistent with the copyright law, also does not constitute infringement. Nor, on this record, is Google a contributory infringer.

The Authors Guild has rejected this ruling and is now seeking to bring this case to the Supreme Court.

As we watch the definitions of "copyright" and "fair use" battling it out in the court, we're interested in your opinion on this pivotal case.

1 Comment

Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72