Google Books a win: Media giant wins epic copyright battle against Writers Guild

April 19, 2016 Published by

On Monday, a US Supreme Court decision ended an eleven year battle between Google and the US Authors Guild, under which the Authors Guild had claimed Google’s epic book scanning project breached copyright laws by scanning without permission.



Google began the scanning process in 2004 with the intention of including extracts in a searchable database.  The Authors Guild commenced action against Google in 2005.

Google has maintained that its database was a ‘fair use’ of copyright works – being a ‘card catalogue for the digital age.’  Authors claimed instead that Google’s scanning and digitising of books without payment to the copyright holders was an infringement of their rights in the works.

The US Supreme Court has now denied a petition from the Authors Guild to hear an appeal of a 2013 Federal Court ruling, under which the project was seen to be ‘fair use’ under copyright law.

Librarians have welcomed the decision, but the Authors Guild has expressed disappointment with the decision.  Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Guild commenting that the ruling ‘tells us that Google, not authors, deserves to profit from the digitisation of their books.’

A Google statement released said “(W)e are grateful that the court has agreed to uphold the decision of the Second Circuit…which concluded that Google Books is transformative and consistent with copyright law.’

Working with major libraries including Stanford, Columbia and the New York Public Library, at present, Google has scanned more than 20 million books to make them machine-readable.

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