The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled October 16 that Google's massive project to make digital copies of tens of millions of books does not violate copyright laws. The Authors Guild had accused Google of copyright infringement by scanning millions of books without permission of the rights-holders.
The opinion, by a three-judge panel of the appellate court, affirms an earlier decision by a New York district court that had also rejected the copyright-infringement claims that the Authors Guild and three writers had brought against Google.
The dispute involves Google's Library Project under which the company is scanning and cataloguing book collections from major libraries so users can search for them via Google Books.
The Authors Guild, which represents working authors, sued Google, claiming that scanning books without permission from rights-holders constitutes copyright infringement. Google however maintained that the copying fell under the definition of 'fair use' in copyright law.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which heard the case, sided with Google's viewpoint, prompting the appeal from the Authors Guild and other plaintiffs. In the appeal, they argued that Google's book-scanning project does not really represent a 'transformative use' and, instead, acts as a substitute for the original works. Among several other things, they argued that Google's storage of digital copies of books heightened the risk of hackers making the books available freely on the Internet.
In its opinion October 16, the appeals court, however, rejected the arguments and upheld the district court's earlier ruling in the case. The appellate court also downplayed the risk of hackers exposing copyrighted works for free on the Internet.
In a statement on its Website, the Authors Guild described the ruling as leaving authors ‘high and dry' and hinted the case could go before the Supreme Court.
The dispute between Google and the Authors Guild goes back to 2005. The initial class action suit ultimately ended in a proposed settlement between the two sides, with Google agreeing to pay rights-holders in return for being able to use the scanned text more extensively.
In 2011, the New York district court rejected the settlement on the grounds that it was unfair to the class members represented by the Authors Guild. Following that decision, the Authors Guild in October 2011 once again filed an amended class-action complaint, setting off the chain of legal events that resulted in the Oct. 16 decision by the appeals court.
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Copyrights/Data Integrity/Ethical issues
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