Organizations representing songwriters, illustrators, playwrights and other writers are asking a federal appeals court to uphold an order
allowing the Authors Guild to bring a class-action against Google for its book digitization project.
The groups say in a friend-of-the-court brief filed last week that a class-action lawsuit is the only realistic means for many content creators to enforce their copyrights when their works are digitized without permission.
The organizations add that a ruling denying the
Authors Guild class-action status could "encourage technology providers to simply take first, and worry about the consequences later."
The coalition argues: "Without the ability to aggregate their claims against infringing technology providers, [we] fear that the exclusive rights that the copyright act promises will be illusory to all except the largest and best-heeled copyright owners."
The groups to join in the friend-of-the-court brief include the Dramatists Guild, National Writers' Union, Romance Writers of America, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Songwriters Guild of America, and the Text and Academic Authors Association.
They are asking the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold an order entered last year by U.S. Circuit Court Judge Denny Chin, who rejected Google's contention that copyright infringement requires case-by-case evaluation.
The dispute dates to 2005, when the Authors Guild sued Google for digitizing library books and displaying snippets of them in response to search queries. Last year, Chin certified the Authors Guild's lawsuit as a class-action, ruling that it would be unfair to require authors to bring individual cases.
Google is appealing that ruling to the 2nd Circuit. The company argues that a class-action isn't appropriate because the Authors Guild and its members have conflicting interests. Google says that many writers approve of its decision to scan millions of books from public libraries and make them searchable. The search company also says that the case presents fair use issues that require individual assessment.
But the coalition to weigh in against Google says the company is wrong on both counts, arguing that Google's theory "rips from all individual authors the ability to join together and combat massive, systematic, and centralized infringement."
The coalition also discounts arguments by a group of professors, who weighed in on Google's side. "No doubt Napster users (and occasionally artists) may have benefitted from having access to or promotion of a variety of songs and sound recordings, but that fact neither shielded Napster from infringement nor aggregate liability," the coalition says in its brief.