Court rules in favor of Google’s online library

googleNEW YORK: Google is not violating copyright laws by digitizing millions of books so it can provide small portions of them to the public, a federal appeals court ruled in a decade long dispute by authors worried that the project would spoil the market for their work.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan agreed with a judge who concluded that the snippets Google showed customers from its database was a transformative use of the information and thus did not violate copyright laws.

Judge Denny Chin ruled in November 2013 that Google’s digitization of over 20 million books, mostly out-of-print titles, did not violate copyrights because the Mountain View, California-based company only showed short sections of the books in its database. Chin had said it would be difficult for anyone to read any of the works in their entirety by repeatedly entering different search requests.

In an opinion written by Judge Pierre N. Leval, the appeals court agreed, saying the snippet feature “substantially protects against its serving as an effectively competing substitute for plaintiffs’ books.”

It added: “Snippet view, at best and after a large commitment of manpower, produces discontinuous, tiny fragments, amounting in the aggregate to no more than 16% of a book. This does not threaten the rights holders with any significant harm to the value of their copyrights or diminish their harvest of copyright revenue.”

The three-judge appeals panel did acknowledge, though, that some book sales would likely be lost if someone were merely searching for a portion of text to ascertain a fact.

The Authors Guild and various authors had challenged Google in 2005, contending that the digital book project violated their rights. Writers included Jim Bouton, author of the best-seller “Ball Four,” Betty Miles, author of “The Trouble with Thirteen,” and Joseph Goulden, author of “The Superlawyers: The Small and Powerful World of Great Washington Law Firms.” -AP

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