US judge weighs Google book copyright case

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Posted September 24, 2013

A federal judge Monday pointedly questioned attorneys for the Authors Guild in a long-running case on whether Google’s book-scanning project violates copyright law.

The two sides presented oral arguments in a hearing on whether the case should be dismissed, or whether the authors can maintain their challenge to the massivedigitization project.

US District Judge Denny Chin said a core question in determining the case is whether there is “benefit to society” in helping users find information from books, facilitating inter-library loans or permitting data mining. All of these functions have been cited by proponents of Google’s “Library Project” in legal briefs, Chin said.

An attorney for the guild said that while some uses may benefit society in some instances, it should not override authors’ rights to control the content they created.

“Then there’s a question of whether Google has to pay for it,” Edward Rosenthal, an attorney representing the Authors Guild, told the court.

The back-and-forth between Rosenthal and Chin dominated a 45-minute hearing on the eight-year old proceeding.

Google has asked the court for summary judgement, a ruling that would gut the heart of the guild’s case. The authors’ group, in turn, has asked the court to deny Google’s defense that the copying is a “fair use” that allows a deviation from normal copyright protections.

Google has scanned more than 20 million books so far in the project. Books in the public domain—without current copyrights—are made available online to the public for free. For copyrighted books Google offers a searchable database that displays snippets of text.


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