Yesterday, Google’s prolonged legal battle with American organisation the Authors Guild came to an end with the US Supreme Court refusing to revisit the Court of Appeal’s previous decision on the case.
Since 2005 Google has been scanning and digitalising tens of millions of books into its massive online library. Key information such as the book’s author, length and synopsis is fully searchable by the public for free. Limited ‘snippets’, being select page extracts, are also available to browse.
The Authors Guild alleged that Google’s activities constituted an infringement of its copyright but the Supreme Court stood by the Court of Appeal’s finding that Google’s activities came under fair use, a defence in America to copyright infringement.
America’s oldest and largest professional organisation for writers failed to convince the court that the literary database breached its copyright or diminished the authors and publishers’ ability to exploit their works for profit.
The Court upheld Google’s argument that its use was ‘transformative’ and in its decision the Court heralded the project as one that “augments the public knowledge”. The plaintiff’s other claims that their works would be pirated or misused were dismissed by the Court for lack of evidence.
What next for Google Books? The tech giant’s ambitious goal for Google Books is “to create a comprehensive, searchable, virtual card catalog of all books in all languages”. No doubt yesterday’s decision will help clear the way to realising this ambition.