Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Wins Court Battle over Books
NEW YORK – On Friday, a federal judge ruled that Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Books, a project facilitating the digitization of all books, including copyrighted works, is protected by the doctrine of fair use. The ruling is in connection to a 2005 action brought by the Authors Guild that alleged Google Books infringed on their copyrights by reproducing books in searchable form online.
Whilst digital content providers and publishers need to consult with legal to understand how the decision might apply to their own intellectual property the ruling opens the way for the complete digitization of published works.
In 2004, Google Books began as a joint venture between the company and several research libraries, including the New York Public Library, and the Library of Congress. The project intended to scan and upload books, which libraries could then download. Google itself scans the books to translate them into machine-readable text and saves copies on its servers and backup tapes.
The dispute between Google and authors started in 2005. Since then, the protracted battle has included a rejected settlement, a vacated class-action lawsuit filing, and a fair deal of bad blood. Had Google lost the case, they would have been faced with damages of up to $ 150,000 per infringement.
For their part, Google argued that the Google Books project falls under the fair use doctrine. However, they need to prove that ‘purpose and character’ of use is, namely, whether it’s commercial or for nonprofit purposes. In his ruling, Judge Denny Chin wrote, ‘Google’s use of the copyrighted works is highly transformative. Google Books does not supersede or supplant books because it is not a tool to be used to read books.’
However, opponents argue that the Google Books project gives the company a leg up over competitors by enriching their search results with content from previously un-indexed works. Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) has issued an objection to the ‘anti-competitive’ effect of allowing Google to continue.
Other standards that Google has to meet was the ‘nature of copyrighted work’ and the ‘amount and sustainability’ of excerpted work in relation to the original copyright itself. The final standard was the ‘effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.’ The Court found it was extremely difficult for any user to download a complete book through search.
In addition, Google Books provides links to where the books can be published, and Judge Chin concluded that ‘in this day and age of on-line shopping, there can be no doubt but that Google Books improves books sales.’
The ruling could transform an industry current undergoing deep changes and could undermine Amazon’s position as the premier bookseller.