Judge rules Google's scanning of books is not illegal

There is nothing wrong with Google scanning millions of book and making that text available as snippets in search results. This is the ruling made today by a judge in New York, bringing to an end an eight year legal battle between Google and The Authors Guild in conjunction with several specific authors. Starting back in 2004, Google has scanned more than twenty million books -- and permission was not obtained from the copyright holder in many cases.

A class action lawsuit was launched against Google back in 2005, but in New York, U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin has ruled that there is no copyright infringement and that Google's book scanning qualifies as fair use. Among the named writers were former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton, The Trouble with Thirteen author Betty Miles, and legal author Joseph Goulden.

All three, and others, complained that Google was making their work available without permission and without payment. The works were scanned as part of the Google Books program, although the majority of the books that were scanned were out of print. While it was, and indeed still is, possible to perform searches that reveal snippets of text from the books, entire books are never made available in this way.

While performing different searches will reveal different snippets that can be used to piece together the bulk of a book, Judge Chin noted that searchers:

"...would be able to obtain at best a patchwork of snippets that would be missing at least one snippet from every page and 10-percent of all pages..."

The full ruling is available to view online, where it is possible to see Judge Chin's recognition that Google Books has become an important tool for libraries, librarians and cite-checkers. He likens the book snippets to the display of thumbnail previews of photographs, and says "in my view, Google Books provides significant public benefits". In short, the case against Google has been completely dismissed.

How do you react to this ruling?

Image Credit: Feng Yu / Shutterstock

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