Friday, November 15, 2013

Google wins round in copyright suit by U.S. authors; does scanning really increase book sales?

A decision on Thursday in a long-running lawsuit between authors and Google Inc. was decided in Google's favour. It was about Google scanning 20 million books for an online library without the authors permission. U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin accepted Google's argument that theirs was "fair use" under U.S. copyright law. 

The judge also accepted Google's argument that they were making research easier for students, libraries and researchers and that the digitization was "transformative" and, by making "snippets" of text available, was likely to boost rather than reduce book sales. It essentially argued that it was more akin to a digital card catalogue. 

The Authors Guild, which brought the suit, was naturally disappointed, but plans to appeal. 
"Google made unauthorized digital editions of nearly all of the world's valuable copyright-protected literature and profits from displaying those works," [executive director Paul] Aiken said. "Such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of the fair use defense."
Curiously, in all the reporting about the case, I haven't seen any evidence that the scanning actually led to an increase in book sales.

The case citation is: Authors Guild Inc et al v. Google Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 05-08136.


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