Google Book Scanning Project Protected By Fair Use, Appeals Court Says

Handing Google a victory, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said on Friday that the company's book scanning project is protected by fair use principles. The ruling upheld U.S. Circuit Court Denny Chin's decision to award Google summary judgement in the long-running case.

"The purpose of the copying is highly transformative, the public display of text is limited, and the revelations do not provide a significant market substitute for the protected aspects of the originals," U.S. Circuit Court Pierre Leval wrote for the three-judge panel. Google’s commercial nature and profit motivation do not justify denial of fair use."

Google's battle with the Authors Guild dates to 2005, when the Authors Guild alleged that the search company infringed copyright with its ambitious initiative to digitize library books and make snippets available to searchers. The Authors Guild said that Google didn't have the right to make copies of books that were under copyright without the owners' permission.

The appellate judges rejected that theory, writing that Google's project was transformative -- which is one of the factors judges look at when evaluating fair use.

"The purpose of Google’s copying of the original copyrighted books is to make available significant information about those books, permitting a searcher to identify those that contain a word or term of interest, as well as those that do not include reference to it," the opinion states. "In addition ... Google allows readers to learn the frequency of usage of selected words in the aggregate corpus of published books in different historical periods."

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