Google wins digitalization case

Today, Judge Denny Chin ruled in favor of Google in what may be a landmark case that would enhance Fair Use for digital items. Google argued that scanning in books and publishing ‘snippets’ of the books online (over 20 million and counting) was within the realm of Fair Use, an argument accepted by the Court. Judge Chin explicitly mentioned that the benefit of having the books digitized, stating that “Indeed, all society benefits”.
The case, which began in New York in 2004 (found here) has been a veritable rollercoaster. The ruling, which the Author’s Guild said it would appeal, is a victory for not only Google, but for libraries and researchers that would use these scanned books as research aids. Google only puts certain portions of each scanned book online, and has so far scanned in over 20 million books. With that number of books already scanned, Google estimated it could owe the Author’s Guild over three billion dollars, at roughly $750 dollars per book, if they had lost.
Judge Chin drew on a previous case that that also saw the Author’s Guild claims dismissed. In October 2012, Judge Harold Baer dismissed a case against HathiTrust, a partnership between five research-heavy universities (of which University of Wisconsin is a member), on very similar Fair Use grounds.
The Author’s Guild will appeal the decision in both the HathiTrust and Google cases, arguing that both institutions have violated copyright and far exceeded the bounds of a Fair Use defense by instituting mass scanning. Judge Chin’s ruling found that the scanning not only was beneficial to the public as a whole, but also a transformative work, meaning that copyright was not violated, but rather would likely boost sales instead of impede them.
To read more about this decision, check out the write-ups from Reuters, BBC News or the New York Times.