Google wins copyright book-scanning battle

Google wins copyright book-scanning battle

The US Supreme Court has denied the American Authors Guild right to appeal the Google copyright infringement case, bringing a decade-old suit to a close.

The court has ruled in Google’s favour in the appeal, during which the technology firm was accused of breaching copyright laws and harming authors' incomes by scanning library books without permission, according to the BBC. The Supreme Court's judgement is the final ruling on the matter, meaning that District Court Judge Denny Chin's 2013 ruling that Google’s scanning constituted “fair use” has been left to stand.

The Authors Guild sued Google in 2005, a year after the search engine giant began scanning the library books in 2004.

In a post on its website, The Authors Guild said it is “disappointed” with the ruling, with its president Roxana Robinson saying: “Today authors suffered a colossal loss. We filed the class action lawsuit against Google in September 2005 because, as we stated then, ‘Google’s taking was a plain and brazen violation of copyright law.’ We believed then and we believe now that authors should be compensated when their work is copied for commercial purposes.”

Robinson added: “...We’re witnessing a vast redistribution of wealth from the creative sector to the tech sector, not only with books, but across the spectrum of the arts.”

Google's database of books allows users to search and read millions of titles and passages, some of which are not protected by copyright, but millions which are.

The Guild has maintained that expansion of fair use in the digital age “remains in need of resolution” and has vowed to “remain vigilant” to ensure that the final ruling is not taken as "carte blanche for unfettered digitisation of books".

“The Second Circuit decision took pains to highlight that fair use was found based on the strict display restrictions and security measures currently employed by Google,” said Authors Guild general counsel Jan Constantine. “We’ll continue to monitor Google and its library partners to ensure these standards are met, as we will take appropriate action to ensure that fair use isn’t abused.”

The organisation is working with partners to create "market-based solutions" for collective licensing of books which it says would help to eliminate unnecessary transaction costs for mass copying-and-display projects like Google Books, for example, and would also allow full e-books, not just excerpts, to be made available for reading.

Google said its database was a "fair use" of protected works and "a card catalogue for the digital age".

A Google spokeswoman said: "We are grateful that the court has agreed to uphold the decision of the Second Circuit which concluded that Google Books is transformative and consistent with copyright law."