Google Draws Support In Battle Over Book Digitization


Google is drawing broad outside support in its 7-year-old copyright battle with the Authors Guild.

The Web companies Yahoo, Pinterest and Electronic Arts last week notified the federal court that they wish to file friend-of-the-court briefs arguing that the Authors Guild shouldn't be able to bring a class-action against Google.

Yahoo and the other companies say they "are interested in the development of clear, consistent, and fair principles of law involving intellectual property and related claims, especially in this case with respect to class actions."

In addition, library organizations and a coalition of more than 100 professors filed separate briefs backing Google in the litigation.

The dispute between Google and the Authors Guild dates to 2005, when the Authors Guild alleged in court that Google infringed copyright by scanning books from libraries and displaying snippets of some of them in its search engine, in response to queries.



One of the many contested issues centers on whether the Authors Guild is entitled to class-action status. Google argues that class-action status isn't appropriate, arguing that many individual authors feel differently than the Authors Guild about the book project. The tech company says that a survey it commissioned shows that many writers benefit from the project and want it to continue.

Earlier this year, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Denny Chin rejected Google's argument and said the case could move forward as a class-action. Chin said it wouldn't be fair to require writers to sue Google individually.

Google appealed that decision to the 2nd Circuit, which stayed all trial court proceedings until the class-action question is resolved.

The professors -- all authors themselves -- argue in their friend-of-the-court brief that they disagree with the Authors Guild's stance. "Academic authors typically benefit from Google Books, both because it makes their books more accessible to the public than ever before and because they use Google Books in conducting their own research," they argue.

A separate friend-of-the-court brief by the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries and the Association of Research Libraries argues that certifying the Authors Guild as a class-action could harm libraries generally.

"Class certification ... would set a precedent that any mass digitization initiative is subject to class action claims," they argue. "The mere threat of having to defend against such claims creates a disincentive for libraries, universities, and others to engage in socially beneficial digitization efforts, even where there is a strong fair use justification," notes the ALA.





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