The long-running lawsuit against Google about its book scanning project returned to federal district court in New York this morning, where Google argued that the Authors Guild shouldn't be allowed to pursue its seven-year-old copyright infringement case.
The Authors Guild and American Association of Publishers sued Google in 2005 for digitizing library books. The groups argued that Google infringed copyright by making copies of the books and by displaying snippets in search results. The authors and publishers reached a settlement with Google several years ago, but the deal was nixed by federal judge Denny Chin after numerous observers raised concerns. (That deal called for Google to fund a new book rights registry, and would have allowed the company to digitize books and sell downloads at prices it set with the registry. It also would have immunized Google, but no other companies, for selling "orphan works" -- or books under copyright but whose owners can't be found.)
Google and the publishers reportedly have made progress with talks for a new settlement, but the search giant and the Authors Guild are battling it out in court.
Google now says that the Authors Guild's case should be dismissed for several reasons, including that the Authors Guild shouldn't be able to pursue a class-action because authors' interests are too diverse.
To prove this point, Google commissioned a survey of more than 800 authors about their opinions regarding the project. The majority of respondents, 58%, said they approved of Google scanning their books, while 28% were neutral and 14% objected. Almost three out of four respondents, 74%, said they don't believe that Google's scans would affect them financially, while 19% say they have or would benefit and 8% said they have or would be harmed.
But Authors Guild attorney Joanne Zack countered in this morning's 90-minute hearing that it wouldn't be fair -- or efficient -- to require authors to bring cases one-by-one "against a defendant such as Google.
"It would be a terrible burden on the courts if each individual author had to litigate," she said. "This action does cry out for a mass litigation, to adjudicate the mass digitization."
Chin reserved decision.