In court before Judge Denny Chin Monday, attorneys for the Authors Guild argued that Google’s mass digitization of copyrighted material serves primarily to enhance the company’s search capabilities, giving it an advantage over competitors, and should not be considered fair use.
The question of fair use is pivotal in the long-running legal battle over Google’s Library Project, and almost certain to determine whether Judge Chin grants summary judgment to the Guild or Google, or allow the case to proceed to trial.
On Monday, Chin did not rule on the issue, but did pose a number of questions related to Google’s defense that its scanning of more than 20 million books is transformative, and that the project benefits society and may drive consumers to buy books.
Guild attorneys agreed that the project may have some benefits, but said they are outweighed by the need to protect authors from the wholesale copyright infringement of Google’s unauthorized book scanning. They pointed out that Google could have licensed the material, but did not.
They also reiterated the argument that it is the role of Congress, not a judge, to decide whether US copyright law should be revised to allow for such unauthorized digitization of books. Chin expressed skepticism that Congress could act fast enough to resolve the issue in a reasonable amount of time.