Google’s Library Scanning Project Heads to Court

Many predicted that the copyright issues that surround Google’s library book
scanning project would end up in court. Today those predictions came true.

This afternoon, the 8000 member Authors
Guild
and three individual authors, including a former Poet Laureate of the
United States, filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against Google over
the Google Library
book scanning project which is part of Google
Print
.

From the
news release:

The suit alleges that the $90 billion search engine and advertising
juggernaut is engaging in massive copyright infringement at the expense of the
rights of individual writers….This is a plain and brazen violation of
copyright law,” said Authors Guild president Nick Taylor. “It’s not up to
Google or anyone other than the authors, the rightful owners of these
copyrights, to decide whether and how their works will be copied.”

More in the
news release
and this

News.com story
by Elinor Mills.

What does Google have to say about the lawsuit? Google’s Nate Tyler told SEW:

The Google Print program respects copyright. We regret that this group has
chosen litigation to try to stop a program that will make books and the
information within them more discoverable to the world. Google Print directly
benefits authors and publishers by increasing awareness of and sales of the
books in the program. And, if they choose, authors and publishers can exclude
books from the program if they don’t want their material included. Copyrighted
books are indexed to create an electronic card catalog and only snippets of
the books are shown unless the content owner gives permission to show more.

Over the past few months we’ve blogged about major concerns over the Google
Library scanning project from several publishing trade groups. However, as far
as I know, no legal action has been filed by any of these groups.

For more on Google Library see:

Postscript From Danny:


Google Print and the Authors Guild
on the official Google blog has a
reaction to the suit, illustrating that only tiny, tiny portions of copyrighted

works would be shown and defending the project as being consistent with
copyright law.

Via
BoingBoing, a copy of the legal complaint is
here
(PDF). BoingBoing also points to this EFF
article saying
(as some of the articles above have already covered) that Google may have a good
fair use argument. The EFF article points to this
analysis (PDF)
by Jonathan Band looking at how the complaints compare when measured up against
the limited case law we have about search engine indexing.

I agree with the paper, especially the point as I’ve written before that
search engines already supposedly infringement copyright in the way publishers

describe for web indexing, and have done so for years and to some of these
publishers’ own web sites, without them complaining. More on that from me in
these articles:

However, on the fair use front, I recently discussed on in some
circumstances, even the tiny snippets shown could potentially be found to do
real harm to an author. It would be rare, but possible, and might be a reason
for Google to adopt a policy of not showing anything content at all beyond book
title and maybe table of contents, for books which is doesn’t have explicit
copyright permission. The article below has more on that:

Want to discuss or comment? Visit our forum thread,
Google Sued
Over Google Print Library Scanning
.

     

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