An eight year old lawsuit came to a close with the decision by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in the case of The Authors Guild, Inc. et al., vs. Google, Inc. In a 30 page opinion, the court ruled in favor of Google in a landmark decision. Of course, this decision will likely be appealed but it appears that the basis of the decision by the court is sound.
The essence of the decision is that Google's book scanning process does not violate copyright law under the doctrine of fair use.It appears to me That the key decision in the case was stated by the court as follows:
Google Books does not supersede or supplant books because it is not a tool to be used to read books. Instead, it "adds value to the original" and allows for "the creation of new information, new aesthetics, new insights and understandings." Leval, Toward a Fair Use Standard, 103 Harv. L. Rev. at 1111. Hence, the use is transformative.The court holds this opinion despite the fact that Google is a commercial enterprise and is making money, in part, from people searching for books on its website. The court further holds that Google's copies of the books even though they copy the entire book, is still judged to be fair use. Concerning an important deciding factor, the court states:
To the contrary, a reasonable factfinder could only find that Google Books enhances the sales of books to the benefit of copyright holders. An important factor in the success of an individual title is whether it is discovered -- whether potential readers learn of its existence. (Harris Decl. ¶ 7 (Doc. No. 1039)). Google Books provides a way for authors' works to become noticed, much like traditional in-store book displays. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-15). Indeed, both librarians and their patrons use Google Books to identify books to purchase. (Br. of Amici Curiae American Library Ass'n at 8). Many authors have noted that online browsing in general and Google Books in particular helps readers find their work, thus increasing their audiences. Further, Google provides convenient links to booksellers to make it easy for a reader to order a book. In this day and age of on-line shopping, there can be no doubt but that Google Books improves books sales.In conclusion, the court holds:
In my view, Google Books provides significant public benefits. It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders. It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books. It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.This ruling is very important for all of us, genealogists and non-genealogists for the reason that this decision rules in favor of accessibility. We will now have to wait and see if the case is appealed and if so, wait for the decision of the Court of Appeals and likely the Supreme Court of the United States.