Yesterday a U.S. circuit judge dismissed a long-running case brought against Google by the Authors Guild for digitally copying more than 20 million books without permission of the writers. The case, which stretches back to 2005, is part of a number of legal entanglements created by Google Books, which included lawsuits from publishers (with whom Google settled last year), photographers, graphic artists, and a former professional baseball player Jim Bouton, whose memoir, Ball Four: The Final Pitch, was among the books scanned.
According to a Reuters report, Judge Denny Chin agreed with Google’s argument that making “snippets” of text from the books available online qualified as “fair use”—“a card catalog for the digital age,” according to the company—and thus not a violation of copyright, as suggested by the Authors Guild. The advocacy group was asking for $750 per book, which Google claimed would have cost more than $3 billion (or roughly 6 percent of the company’s $45 billion estimated cash assets).
Google tried to settle with authors and publishers for a much tidier sum, $125 million (.3 percent of $45 billion), back in 2011, but the same judge rejected it out of concern it would give Google a “de facto monopoly” to copy any book it wanted. The case morphed into the class-action suit that Chin dismissed yesterday.
In response to the dismissal, the Authors Guild argued that “mass digitization and exploitation” exceeds the limits of fair use, so expect this process to drag on further with an appeal.
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In the meantime, excerpts of Ball Four remain unavailable in Google Books.