Today, Judge Chin granted summary judgment in favor of Google in an action brought by the Authors Guild and certain individual authors alleging that Google’s digitization of more than 20 million books owned by certain research and university libraries which are then provided to the contributing libraries in their entirety, and made available – in snippets – via Google Books, is violative of the Copyright Act.
Judge Chin held that all four statutory factors weigh in favor of a finding fair use, and that Google Books provides significant public benefit to students, teachers, librarians, researchers, and the authors of digitized books:
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. It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books. It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.
A companion case brought by the Authors Guild against certain Universities and the HathiTrust Partnership (which hosted a digital library of the complete scanned works) was also dismissed by Judge Baer in 2012, who also found that Google’s digitization was protected by fair use. The related Association of American Publishers suit against Google (also before Judge Chin) was settled in 2012. The action dismissed by Judge Chin today had been stayed while the Second Circuit considered an appeal to his decision to certify the case as a class action. In July, the Second Circuit found that it was premature for Judge Chin to certify the class without first evaluating the merits of Google’s fair use defense. Our previous post on these cases is here.