After eight years of litigation, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York upheld the fair use doctrine when the court dismissed Authors Guild v. Google, a case that questioned the legality of Google’s searchable book database. The Library Copyright Alliance—which is comprised of the American Library Association, the Association of College & Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries—welcomes Judge Denny Chin’s decision to protect the search database that allows the public to search more than 20 million books. In his dismissal of the case, Judge Chin enumerated the public benefits of Google Book Search by calling the project transformative and a fair use under the copyright law.
“It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books,” Judge Chin wrote, referencing an amicus brief submitted by the Library Copyright Alliance. “It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten, and it gives them new life.
“It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or under-served populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.”
Barbara Stripling, president of the American Library Association, said, “This ruling furthers the purpose of copyright by recognizing that Google’s Book search is a transformative fair use that advances research and learning.”
“This decision, along with the decision by Judge Baer in Authors Guild v. Hathi Trust, makes clear that fair use permits mass digitization of books for purposes that advance the arts and sciences, such as search, preservation, and access for the print-disabled,” said Carol Pitts Diedrichs, president of the Association of Research Libraries.
“I echo the comments of my colleagues that this ruling, that strongly supports fair use principles, enables the discovery of a wealth of resources by researchers and scholars,” said Trevor A. Dawes, president of the Association of College & Research Libraries. “Google Book search also makes searchable literally millions of books by students and others with visual disabilities. This is a tremendous opportunity for all our communities.”
In 2005, the Authors Guild sued Google over the scanning of over 20 million library books from several research libraries without the prior authorization of rights holders. The purpose of the digitization project was to create a searchable index of books that would allow key word searching of the collections of major research libraries. The searchable index is accessible to the public who would not otherwise be able to search research collections. The District Court ruling bodes well for libraries, scholars, and researchers in the pending appeal of Authors Guild v. Hathi Trust. Judge Chin agreed with Judge Baer’s fair use analysis in the Hathi Trust case, indicating that the result in the Google case is compatible with the Hathi Trust decision and suggesting a favorable decision on appeal.