Simpsons Solicitors

Judge bowls authors a Googly

November 26th 2013

The judge in the Google Book Project case has found that Google was able to rely on “fair use” under US law to scan upwards of 20 million books to create a searchable database for itself, to provide copies to the libraries with which it partnered, and to return snippets of the books as part of search results when people search using Google.

The judge stated that:

“In my view, 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. It has become an invaluable research tool … it has given scholars the ability … to conduct full-text searches … it preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten … and gives them new life. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors ad publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.”

In reaching his decision, the judge placed great weight on his finding that Google’s use of the books was “transformative”.

You can read the decision at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/184172215/Summary-judgment-order-in-Authors-Guild-v-Google-Google-Books

The Author’s Guild has announced that it will lodge an appeal.  The publishers had previously settled their claims with Google.

The case should have more than passing interest to Australian publishers and authors – not only because their books may have been included in the books scanned by Google, but also because of the Australian Law Reform Commission is expected to recommend that Australia also introduce a “fair use” exception to Australian law. The ALRC’s report (which is on copyright exceptions in the digital economy) is due to be handed to the Federal Attorney-General by 30 November 2013.

If you have questions about the case or about how fair use may impact you, contact copyright and publishing lawyers Adam Simpson or Ian McDonald (Special Counsel, Copyright) at Simpsons Solicitors.