US Court Finds Google's Massive Book Scanning "Fair Use" under Copyright Act

 
On 14 November 2013, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) ruled that Google's scanning of massive books and making snippets of texts available online was a "fair use" under Section 107 of the US Copyright Act, thus relieving Google from the accusation of copyright infringement and liability for compensation. 
 
The case was initiated in 2005 by the Authors Guild, which filed a class action against Google's unauthorized scanning of its members' works for a digital library program. To this, Google cited fair use defense. Negotiations for settlement continued for years afterwards but fell through in 2010. The turning point came when Google challenged the decision of SDNY in 2012 on the certification of class action status to the case with an appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which subsequently rejected the status, stating that the certification was premature before the determination of the applicability of the fair use defense was made.
 
The case was remanded to SDNY for reconsideration. According to the judge, the key factor underlying the ruling in favour of Google was transformative use of the copyrighted work. There were new values brought by the book scanning, such as facilitating research for the millions of commercially available and university library books by converting the texts into a word index, enabling Braille and audio formats for the disabled from digitised versions of the books, revitalising the out-of-prints, as well as generating interest and boosting book sales via links to the booksellers.
 
The Authors Guild expressed disappointment in the court decision and planned to appeal, citing that Google had made unauthorized digital editions of nearly all of the world's valuable copyright-protected literature and profited from displaying those works, and that such mass digitisation and exploitation far exceeded the bounds of the fair use defense.
 
Similar opposition has been voiced from countries outside the US. In China, the China Written Works Copyright Society set up a task group in 2009 to represent the affected authors. As reported, Google's book scanning project had extended to include nearly 18,000 works of 570 authors then without the consent of the authors.