US Appeals Court held that Google book scanning Project is not illegal. Affirming the judgment by the Court below, Leval, Judge U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, held that (1) Google’s unauthorized digitizing of copyright-protected works, creation of a search functionality, and display of snippets from those works are non-infringing fair uses. The purpose of the copying is highly transformative, the public display of text is limited, and the revelations do not provide a significant market substitute for the protected aspects of the originals. Google’s commercial nature and profit motivation do not justify denial of fair use. (2) Google’s provision of digitized copies to the libraries that supplied the books, on the understanding that the libraries will use the copies in a manner consistent with the copyright law, also does not constitute infringement. Nor, on this record, is Google a contributory infringer.
This decision came in an appeal filed before it by certain authors of published books under copyright, sued Google, Inc. (“Google”) for copyright infringement in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Chin, J.). They appeal from the grant of summary judgment in Google’s favor. Through its Library Project and its Google Books project, acting without permission of rights holders, Google has made digital copies of tens of millions of books, including Plaintiffs’, that were submitted to it for that purpose by major libraries.
The Court observed “Google’s creation for each library of a digital copy of that library’s already owned book in order to permit that library to make fair use through provision of digital searches is not an infringement. If the library had created its own digital copy to enable its provision of fair use digital searches, the making of the digital copy would not have been infringement. Nor does it become an infringement because, instead of making its own digital copy, the library contracted with Google that Google would use its expertise and resources to make the digital conversion for the library’s benefit.”
The authors had contended that Google’s storage of its digitized copies of Plaintiffs’ books exposes them to the risk that hackers might gain access and make the books widely available, thus destroying the value of their copyrights. Rejecting the contention the Court held “Google has made a sufficient showing of protection of its digitized copies of Plaintiffs’ works to carry its burden on this aspect of its claim of fair use and thus to shift to Plaintiffs the burden of rebutting Google’s showing. Plaintiffs’ effort to do so falls far short.”
The appellants had also contended that the libraries may use the digital copies Google created for them in an infringing manner. If they did so, the Court said that such libraries may be liable to Plaintiffs for their infringement. The court further added “It is also possible that, in such a suit, Plaintiffs might adduce evidence that Google was aware of or encouraged such infringing practices, in which case Google could be liable as a contributory infringer. But on the present record, the possibility that libraries may misuse their digital copies is sheer speculation.”
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