Google Says Book Search is Fair Use
It's finally here: Google's long anticipated, full-throated fair use defense for its library scanning program. In its motion for Summary Judgment in the Authors Guild vs. Google, filed on July 27, Google attorneys argue that its keyword searchable index of books scanned from library shelves "passes with ease" the ultimate test of fair use, because it provides "enormous transformative benefit" to the public, without "reducing the value" of any authors' work. According to media reports, meanwhile, the Authors Guild filed "a sealed motion" for Summary Judgment by hand, with a redacted version reportedly to be filed later.
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"Google Books is an important advance on the card-catalog method of finding books," the Google brief states. "Readers benefit by being able to find relevant books. Authors benefit because their books can be more readily found, purchased, and read. The public benefits from the increase of knowledge that results." The heart of the Authors Guild case, on the other hand, Google attorneys note, is that Google "could not create those benefits without first obtaining permission from the authors of the books that were copied in the process of making the index," an argument that fundamentally misunderstands copyright, the brief states, as copyright is not a "right inherent in authorship," but a "utilitarian concept," created entirely by law.
"The guiding principle in this case is not a natural right of authors to control their works: no such right exists under United States law," Google argues. "What matters instead is whether Google Books furthers the objectives of copyright laws because of the public benefits (including benefits to authors), flowing from Google Books."
The brief comes after nearly seven years of legal wrangling, including three years the parties spent stumping together for an ill-fated settlement with authors and publishers. The settlement was rejected by Judge Denny Chin in March of 2011. Chin, however, based his rejection on the deal's controversial, forward-looking business component, without reaching the copyright claims at the heart of the case. Now, barring an unexpected development, the case is on track to deliver a precedent-setting fair use verdict.
Next up, responses to the motions for Summary Judgment are due August 24, with replies to the responses due September 17, and oral arguments set to begin October 9.
SOURCE: Publishers Weekly
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