Google Books Granted Fair Use Victory in the 2nd Circuit

Source: Flickr

I have the scoop on last week’s court decision that deems Google Books scanning of written works as fair use. The post was originally published here on the Fractured Atlas blog. You can follow me on Twitter @cduffy90 and join the conversation with #CopyrightwithCourtney.

Exciting news for Google Books fans: the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously found that the project constitutes a fair use.

The lawsuit from the Authors Guild, which has been ongoing for a number of years, contended that the Google Books process of digitizing, indexing and making public snippets of millions of printed books violates copyright.

One of the presiding judges, Pierre Leval, articulated in his decision that “the ultimate goal of copyright is to expand public knowledge and understanding,” and that Google Books does indeed satisfy these qualifications. The court qualified the digitization of the books as a transformative use which augments public knowledge. The 2nd Circuit established that uses of works for commercial purposes — by organizations like Google Books — can still qualify as fair use, as well.

This decision is important for artists who turn to books for reference and inspiration during the creative process. Google Books enables them to access relevant works in seconds, eliminating the elements of travel and time required to visit an actual library.

Additionally, it is an important reminder of the Internet’s role in today’s digital world. Broadband is a modern public utility and as an organization we have focused much of our recent advocacy on ensuring that the Lifeline Program is modernized to include broadband as an option for participants.

Our friends at Public Knowledge join us in celebrating the Google Books decision. Policy Counsel Raza Panjwani noted that it “puts to rest two pervasive misconceptions about copyright law: that digitizing or copying an entire work is always a violation of the law regardless of purpose, and that the mere existence of a licensing market eliminates the possibility of a fair use.”

We hope the ruling will spark renewed efforts of individuals and organizations to digitize and share culture and knowledge with the public moving forward.

You can find the full decision here.

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