Judge: Google's Book Copying Doesn't Violate Copyright Law

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Google has prevailed in a long-running lawsuit over the millions of books the company has digitally scanned without permission from authors and publishers. A U.S. Circuit Court judge has ruled that it's "fair use" when Google scans portions of books for public to use.


Google won a key victory in a nearly decade-long lawsuit over fair use of the collections of works at the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress and various university libraries. A U.S. Circuit Court judge in Manhattan found Google's project to digitally copy millions of books for online searches does not violate copyright law.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Google began scanning books back in 2004. Many of the works were by living authors. The Authors Guild took legal action against Google, demanding $750 for each book it scanned. Google estimated that it would have cost the company $3 billion. But U.S. Circuit Court Judge Denny Chin called Google's digitization of books transformative.

Google does not make the books fully accessible online. If someone searches for a topic, sections of the book appear that might be relevant. He noted that the process was likely to boost sales. Chin wrote that Google Books provides significant public benefits. Indeed, he said, all society benefits.

Google has been scanning the books at libraries such as Harvard, Oxford and Stanford. Judge Chin wrote that scanning will give new life to out-of-print books that sit in the bowels of libraries.

Of course, Google welcomed the decision. In a statement, the company said that it was acting as a card catalog for the digital age. But this long-running battle may not be over. The Authors Guild plans to appeal. It has argued that since Google sells ads alongside those snippets, it's profiting from copyright works.

Laura Sydell, NPR News.

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