Court deems Google Book Search 'fair use'

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After eight years, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York has dismissed the Authors Guild's case against Google, which questioned the legality of Google’s searchable database of more than 20 million books.

In his dismissal of the case, Judge Chin described the Google Book Search project as transformative and a fair use under the copyright law. 'It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books,' Judge Chin wrote.

'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.'

The Library Copyright Alliance—which is comprised of the American Library Association, the Association of College & Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries—says that it welcomes the decision to protect the database.

'This decision, along with the decision by Judge Baer in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, makes clear that fair use permits mass digitisation of books for purposes that advance the arts and sciences, such as search, preservation, and access for the print-disabled,' said Carol Pitts Diedrichs, president of the Association of Research Libraries.

'This ruling, that strongly supports fair use principles, enables the discovery of a wealth of resources by researchers and scholars,' said Trevor A. Dawes, president of the Association of College & Research Libraries. 'Google Book search also makes searchable literally millions of books by students and others with visual disabilities. This is a tremendous opportunity for all our communities.'