Google Books Wins Fair Use Exception
Google has won an important copyright challenge, Inside Higher Ed reports:
Google’s practice of scanning copyrighted works to turn them into digital resources has once again been ruled a “transformative” example of fair use. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Friday released its opinion in Authors Guild v. Google, delivering a 3-0 win for defendant.
Writing for a unanimous court, Judge Pierre N. Leval said “Google’s making of a digital copy to provide a search function is a transformative use, which augments public knowledge by making available information about plaintiffs’ books without providing the public with a substantial substitute for matter protected by the plaintiffs’ copyright interests in the original works or derivatives of them.”
Legal experts said the ruling leaves little room for further litigation. James Grimmelmann, professor of law at the University of Maryland at Baltimore, said on Twitter that “It’s hard to see this suit as anything but a debacle for the Authors Guild.”
This strikes me as reasonable.
First, there is indeed a “transformative” act here. I’ve been known to use Google to search the text of books that I already own, because it’s simply easier to have a computer find it than scanning myself.
Second, the court is right on the “substantial substitute” angle. Aside perhaps from the absurdly priced university press books, I can’t imagine the case where I’d want to read more than a few pages of a scanned book vice finding a cheap copy on Amazon. And, in most cases where the book is too expensive to justify adding it to my personal library, I’d just get the book through interlibrary loan.