For eight years, Google has been dealing with a lawsuit in which book publishers complained that Google Books was infringing upon copyrights held by book publishers. Finally, a federal court has ruled that Google Books operates within the "fair use" section of the copyright law and is not breaking any laws.
Google Books is the largest book-scanning project on the Internet and according to Google, it was never going against the copyrights since it was not giving away books. Instead, the service provides a way for people to borrow or buy a book once Google has made a version of it.
A Public Service
Not only did Judge Denny Chin rule in Google's favor but he also concluded that Google Books "provides significant public benefits.” The Authors Guild, which initiated the lawsuit eight years ago, was disappointed with the Judge's decision.
The group's executive director Paul Aiken stated, "We disagree with and are disappointed by the court’s decision today. 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.”
Many people were intrigued by the idea of Google Books when it was announced in 2004. The service would provide rare and out-of-print books to anyone on the Internet, something that most people find useful, as did Judge Chin.
Had the Authors Guild class-action lawsuit been successful, Google would have paid $750 per copyrighted book. Since Google has been able to grow Google Books into a collection of 20 million books, the payout would have been massive.
Despite the fact that Google has been involved with numerous lawsuits in the past, this was easily one of the longest and potentially one of the most expensive. While Google could have dealt with the payout, a win for the Authors Guild would have prevented other organizations from scanning books as well.
With the public service that Google Books provides, practically everyone outside of the publishers are happy with the outcome of the case.
“This has been a long road and we are absolutely delighted with today’s judgement,” said Google. “As we have long said, Google Books is in with copyright law and acts like a card catalog for the digital age giving users the ability to find books to buy or borrow.”
Other organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Computer & Communications Industry Association also praised the court for its decision. Along with allowing people to access otherwise rare books, Google Books has continued to be a useful tool for researchers and students, since Books incorporates Google's powerful search technology.