Google Opposes Authors Guild's Attempt To Revive Book-Digitization Fight

The authors who are suing Google for digitizing their books haven't been harmed by the company's initiative, Google argues in new court papers.

“Like a paper index, bibliography, or card catalog -- but far more helpfully -- Google Books enables users to find books of interest but does not substitute for obtaining them elsewhere and reading them,” the company says in a brief filed late last week with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. “Google Books does not displace book purchases or diminish incentives for authors to advance human knowledge by creating new works; to the contrary, it benefits authors by enabling readers to find books and by fostering the advance of knowledge and scholarship.”

Google is asking the 2nd Circuit to uphold Circuit Court Judge Denny Chin's dismissal of a copyright infringement lawsuit filed in 2005 by the Authors Guild. That organization contends that Google doesn't have the right to digitize library books and make snippets available to searchers. In the 9 years that the case has been pending, Google has digitized around 20 million books.

When Chin dismissed the lawsuit last year, he wrote that Google's project is protected by fair use principles because it offers “significant public benefits.”

The Authors Guild is appealing to the 2nd Circuit, where it argues that Google “lured potential book buyers away from online bookstores and provided no compensation to rightsholders for Google’s revenue-generating uses of their books.”

Google says in its response that the project is “transformative,” and therefore protected by fair use. “Books are written to be read. Google Books, by contrast, is a tool for discovering books, not reading them.”

Google also draws on a recent decision in favor of the HathiTrust, a joint digital book-storage project of 13 universities. In that matter, the Authors Guild argued that the HathiTrust infringed writers' copyright by working with Google to make digital copies of books.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit ruled recently that the HathiTrust made fair use of the books. “The creation of a full-text searchable database is a quintessentially transformative use,” the appellate panel said.

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