A federal court judge has dismissed a long-standing lawsuit over the Google Books project, ruling that Google’s initiative to scan the contents of millions of books to make them searchable online falls within the bounds of fair use.
Bloomberg Businessweek has reported that Judge Denny Chin has dismissed a lawsuit filed eight years ago by the Authors Guild, which had claimed that Google was violating the copyrights of authors by scanning books without permission. A similar suit against Google, filed by photo trade groups, is still pending.
According to the Businessweek report, Judge Chin wrote in his ruling: “Google Books provides significant public benefits. It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders.”
Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, told Businessweek: ““In our view, such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of the fair use defense.”
The decision doesn’t bode well for a nearly identical lawsuit filed against Google in 2010 by ASMP, the Graphic Artists Guild, the North American Nature Photographers Association, the Picture Agency Council of America, and the Professional Photographers of America. Those organizations want to prevent Google from scanning visual works in books without permission from copyright holders.
They filed suit against Google after Judge Chin refused to allow them to join the Authors Guild lawsuit.
Eugene Mopsik, executive director of ASMP, told PDN that he could not make specific comments about the ASMP claim against Google, which is still pending.
But he said of the dismissal of the Authors Guild lawsuit, “I think that it’s a terrible expansion of fair use [doctrine] to the detriment of individual rights holders.” He added, “I think it will further contribute to abuse of the fair use statute by other businesses. A lot of entities will look at this and say, ‘If Google is allowed to use [copyrighted] works this way, why can’t we?’”