Google Books lives on, says to a Nov. 14 U.S. district court ruling, and it has the service’s public benefit to thank.
A federal judge ruled in favor of Google in an eight-year old class action suit bought by numerous authors who felt that Google violated their copyright through its Google Books service. Google Books has provided digital copies of over 20 million books since the company began the service in 2004.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin in Manhattan said that Google Books’s public benefit outweighs the cost of any copyright issues. “Google Books provides significant public benefits,” Chin wrote. “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.”
The judge also noted that Google Books could actually help authors rather than hurting them, saying, “Google Books provides a way for authors’ works to become noticed, much like traditional in-store book displays,” according to the opinion. “Many authors have noted that online browsing in general and Google Books in particular helps readers find their work, thus increasing their audiences.”
Chin cited multiple “fair use” precedents in his ruling, most notably Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., which allows fair use to “to fulfill copyright's very purpose, ‘[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,’” as well as holding, “[f]rom the infancy of copyright protection, some opportunity for fair use of copyrighted materials has been thought necessary to fulfill copyright's very purpose.”
The class action was seeking $750 for every illegally copied book in the Google system, which would have been a hefty sum had the judge not ruled in Google’s favor. Chin previously rejected a $125 million settlement in the case in 2011. Lawyers for the authors said they plan to appeal.
If the ruling stands, Google Books could be a key in cementing even further dominance of the online search market. “It helps them continue to maintain a lead in indexing knowledge,” said Danny Sullivan, founding editor of SearchEngineLand.com, to Bloomberg. “Google Books allows us to search books in the same way we can search across the entire Web and who wouldn’t think that that’s a benefit for everyone?”
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