Judge Rules Google’s Digital Books Help Arts and Sciences as Digital Card Catalog

Yesterday was a disappointing day for the Authors Guild, whose lawsuit against Google’s scanned digital books was lost after an eight year battle. The Guild is expected to appeal the decision, saying, “Google made unauthorized digital editions of nearly all of the world’s valuable copyright-protected literature and profits from displaying those works. In our view, such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of the fair use defense.”

Here, we examine some of the major points of the ruling from U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin.

Google Books’ scanned images acts like a digital card catalog:

Google Books has become an important tool for libraries and librarians and cite-checkers as it helps to identity and find books.  

Google Books will not replace actual books, making it a transformative use:

Google Books does not supersede or supplant books because it is not a tool to be used to read books. Instead, it “adds value to the original: and allows for “the creations of new information, new aesthetics, new insights and understandings.”

Commercial entities are allowed to use content as ‘fair use’ so long as it is beneficial to the public in some way:

Google does, of course, benefit commercially in the sense that users are drawn to the Google websites by the ability to search Google Books. While this is a consideration to be acknowledged in weighing all the factors, the fact is Google Books serves several important education purposes.

Google Books offer mostly non-fiction books that are available for publish while significantly limiting the pages users can view:

… courts have held that copying the entirety of a work may still be fair use. Significantly, Google limits the amount of text it displays in response to search.

Users are not likely to manipulate Google Search in order to access a book’s entire content:

Nor is it likely that someone would take the time and energy to input countless searches to try and get enough snippets to comprise and entire book.

Google Books actually enhances book sales:

Google Books provides a way for authors’ works to become noticed, much like traditional in-store book displays. Indeed both librarians and their patrons use Google Books to identify books to purchase.


What do you think? Do scanned images of partial  books infringe on author’s copyrights or do they help authors spread their work? Are you an author who have had positive or negative experience with Google Books? Let us know in the comments!