Round One to Google: Judge Chin Finds Mass Book Digitization a Fair Use. Guild Plans Appeal.

Judge Denny Chin today ruled that Google’s mass book digitization project to be a fair use, granting the company summary judgment in the copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild in 2005.

“We disagree with and are disappointed by the court’s decision today,” Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken said. “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.”

“We plan to appeal the decision.”

Comments: more
  • jem jem

    I am not an Authors Guild member and I am not an attorney. In the NY Times article on Judge Chin’s decision, the outside counsel to the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) is quoted as saying that ” long as the whole work is not displayed, and as long as the rights-holder isn’t harmed, then this copying that goes on behind the curtain just doesn’t matter.”

    However the IFLA and the LCA as mentioned in my prior comment are the sponsors of a Treaty on Exceptions & Limitations for Libraries at WIPO in Geneva wherein the whole work would be displayed. So one who wants to feel those amici who supported both Google and The HathiTrust as Fair Use will be satisfied with decisions in their favor and will not have any further agenda to expand Exceptions & Limitations to copyright “in the public interest” may take caution.

  • Richard Grayson

    “Round one”! Like Scott Turow’s touting illegal violation of antitrust law, this is another time reading this blog makes want to vomit. The Authors Guild is becoming my standard emetic these days.

    I’ve been a member of the Authors Guild 35 years, but I am very upset at the turn this organization has taken. We’ve wasted our resources for years
    on this nearly decade-long case. And now we’re going to appeal.

    Under the leadership of our longtime executive director (a
    very dedicated, hard-working, intelligent man) and our current
    president, Scott Turow, the Authors Guild has been waging these futile
    campaigns against the evil Google and the evil Amazon (in the latter
    case, the Authors Guild put its good name on the side of Apple’s
    price-fixing scheme with the publishers to deliberately keep the cost of
    e-books high; this, of course, was found to be afoul of the federal
    antitrust laws, not to mention the interest of the reading public).

    I love the Authors Guild. When I got my first book contract in
    November 1978, one copy I made was to send to the AG so I could be
    approved for membership. The organization meant a lot to book authors
    back then. I still think membership has great benefits, but I have a
    hard time convincing young novelists and other published authors to
    join. I wonder if that’s because the Authors Guild’s attempts at
    fighting the world of the internet, online commerce, and digital
    technology has made it irrelevant to a younger generation of authors who
    are digital natives.

    I would like to see our organization change its priorities and stop
    demonizing Google, Amazon, and their innovations. I understand these
    innovations cost some authors income, but as Judge Chin said, some of
    these innovations have positive effects for authors and well as readers.
    The publishers’ organization has settled with Google, ending its
    participation in this suit quite a while ago. I hope the AG will not
    appeal this decision and move on to something more productive.

    Book readers are not the enemy of the Authors Guild. Sometimes I think the organization’s current leadership may be — by making it irrelevant to authors under the age of 40. I guess we’re like the Tea Party in that respect, and the leadership is like Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee, fighting the future at every turn.

    • zornwil

      “I wonder if that’s because the Authors Guild’s attempts at
      fighting the world of the internet, online commerce, and digital
      technology has made it irrelevant to a younger generation of authors who
      are digital natives.” – I strongly suspect this is dead on, and not just re “digital natives” but probably also those just a half or full generation older, those who were/are enamored of the potential to share knowledge much more dramatically even as (many of us) respect copyright and wish to preserve the rights of publishers and creators as well.

      • jem jem

        It is easy to suggest the position of the Authors Guild v Google / HathiTrust as that of Luddites. This was the statement of the US Delegation in the transcript of WIPO SCCR 23 regarding the proposed Copyright Exception for Libraries Treaty although the last sentence was edited from the official report:

        “Obviously when a copy of an entire work is being made, there is the question of substantially adverse market effects to the publishers and authors. It is also important that this type of activity not be done in a systematic way, but that it would be a single occasions at the requests of libraries. There is a danger that one library could end up making copies for all libraries, essentially taking away an author’s market to the entire country once one copy is sold to one library.”

  • symbolset

    Round one? It’s been eight long years. The appeals court for this action is the very same one who told the judge to reconsider the fair use question before deciding on whether to allow a class action. The appeal will fall on deaf ears.

  • jbzorg

    Wow, jem jem, are you ignorant or a shill for Author’s Guild or do you just hate blind people (the beneficiaries of the WIPO treaty)?? This is a great day for readers and authors! The “Author’s Guild” in no way represents authors, by the way. It represents publishers who try to squeeze both readers and authors as hard as possible, playing one against the other.

    • jem jem

      All three. Thank you.

  • jem jem

    As with the recent WIPO Marrakesh Treaty, it is the new mantra:
    Our rights to what’s yours supersedes your rights to what’s yours.