Ending Decade Of Litigation Court OKs Google Book Scanning As “Fair Use”

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A three-judge panel for the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals has definitively ruled that Google’s full-text book scanning is “fair use” and thus protected from claims of copyright infringement. So unless The Authors Guild, which originally sued Google in 2005, wants to appeal to the US Supreme Court,  Google has won.

Fair use is a defense against copyright infringement (17 U.S.C. § 107) that allows otherwise copyright-protected material to be used without permission for purposes of teaching, research, news, commentary and criticism. However, fair use must not “excessively damage the market for the original by providing the public with a substitute for that original work.”

The appellate court found that Google’s book-scanning project met this criterion. The fact that Google might have a commercial interest or motivation was not seen as defeating the fair use argument.

Google can now realize its vision of a comprehensive digital library more than a decade after it launched — if it still has the motivation, that is.

The case has a very long and somewhat tortured history. Below are a few selected stories we wrote over the past several years:

Google has reportedly ingested in excess of 20 million volumes since it began scanning books in 2004. However that’s only a portion of the content that Google had originally intended to digitize. It is now free to continue the project in the US market.

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