On July 27, Google Inc. asked U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin to dismiss a lawsuit from the Authors Guild over the company’s plan to digitize books and provide excerpts through their search engine service. Google filed a motion seeking dismissal and arguing their actions fall under fair use and also provide a benefit to the public and the authors themselves. The Authors Guild also filed for summary judgment. Both parties’ motions are set for oral argument on Oct. 9.
The case has been ongoing since The Authors Guild, along with The American Society of Media Photographers and other parties, sued Google in 2005 claiming the company’s plan to create an online literary database was carried out without permission from copyright holders. Google estimated it has already scanned more than 20 million books and posted excerpts from over 4 million. The process began when Google entered agreements with public and university libraries to digitize and upload information for their Google Books service. So far, Google says works have been scanned from Harvard University, Oxford University, Stanford University, the University of California, the University of Michigan, and the New York Public Library. Judge Denny Chin began hearing the case as a trial judge and has retained jurisdiction after being elevated to the Federal Appeals Court in 2010.
The Authors Guild believes that Google’s actions constitute massive copyright infringement. Google argues, however, that their Google Books service actually furthers the objectives of copyright law by providing significant public benefits. Google believes their service even provides a benefit to the authors themselves and argues the authors have failed to prove Google Books displaced any book sales whatsoever. Google Books, the company argues, actually makes the authors’ works more easily available and may have even increased sales. Additionally, Google argues that Google Books constitutes fair use since it creates significant benefits without diminishing the value of the copyrighted works in question.
Previously, in March 2011, Judge Chin rejected a $125 million settlement reached between the plaintiffs and Google. While this may seem unreasonable, the Judge believed the proposed settlement was far too broad. Judge Chin accused Google of using the settlement to implement a business plan that would leave them with a monopoly to copy works without permission. The settlement went beyond the bounds of the litigation and would strengthen Google’s control over the search engine market. The United States, Amazon.com, and Microsoft had raised antitrust concerns following the first proposed settlement. Further talks to reach an alternate settlement between the parties were unsuccessful. In May, the judge granted class-action status to the plaintiffs, allowing photographers and graphic artists to join the suit.