The long-running legal battle between Google and a coalition of publishers and the Authors Guild came to a resounding middle today. Judge Denny Chin has issued a ruling that finds for Google, and calls Google's decade old book scanning project fair use because it was "highly transformative" and didn't impact the market for the original work.
"Google Books provides significant public benefits," writes Chin, adding later that the program "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."
Naturally the publishers and the Authors Guild will appeal this ruling, which means this case is by no means concluded.
This case was originally filed in 2005, and in the past 8 years it has been appealed, settled (the settlement was rejected by the judge in 2011), argued, appealed again, and after all that we have a ruling which really should have been obvious from the very beginning.
Google wasn't scanning the books to sell them; they wanted to create searchable indexes. It's difficult to see how creators are harmed by this, and one could reasonably argue that they benefit when snippets from the contents of a book shows up in a Google Search.
Unfortunately this ruling could probably only have happened after the HaithiTrust won their case last October. That ruling, which is still being appealed, stated that the book scanning conducted by the HaithTrust, a coalition of university libraries, was transformative and thus fair use. This likely paved the way for Judge Chin's ruling today.
image by edenpictures