Google defeats Authors’ Guild in US book-scanning dispute

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By Zachary Brown

Google has won the latest battle in its long-running dispute with the US Authors’ Guild over its plan to create a digital library of every book in the world. On 14 November 2013, US Circuit Judge Denny Chin ruled in favour of Google in the matter of The Authors’ Guild, Inc et al v Google Inc (05 Civ. 8136 (DC) (SDNY No. 14, 2013)), determining that the Google Books project was permissible under the ‘fair use’ defence in US copyright law.

In 2004, Google announced that it was planning to pursue an ambitious digital books project, termed Google Books. Google Books consisted of two programmes: the Partner Programme (initially called Google Print), encompassing some 2.5 million books displayed with the permission of book publishers and other rights holders; and the Library Project, encompassing some 20 million books (to date) which have been digitised from the collections of a number of major libraries, notably the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and the libraries of the universities of Oxford, Harvard, Stanford, California and Michigan, but without the permission of rights holders.

Under the Library Project, Google created an index of all scanned books which enables users to search the full text of books for a word or phrase, returning a list of the most relevant books in which the search term is found, along with links to sellers of the books or libraries which possess the books in their collections. Users may also view ‘snippets’ of books, representing a verbatim extract of one-eighth of a page. Users are prevented from viewing the entire text of books via a system in which at least one snippet on each page and one out of every 10 entire pages in a book are blanked-out and cannot be viewed…

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