After eight years of legal wrangling in the Google Books case, Judge Chin now appears eager to move things along. In an order last week, Chin bluntly denied an Authors Guild request to delay upcoming oral arguments on the cross-motions for summary judgment. Arguments remain set for September 23, but the deadline for the final round of reply briefs was extended to September 16. The Authors Guild had asked for a two-week delay.
The upcoming oral arguments on fair use come after a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit vacated Judge Denny Chin’s 2011 ruling granting the Authors Guild class action status in its suit to stop Google’s library scanning project. The Second Circuit held that certifying a class was “premature in the absence of a determination by the District Court of the merits of Google’s fair use defense.”
In his initial ruling granting class certification, Chin held that “commonalities” among the works scanned made “individualized” fair use analyses unnecessarily burdensome and duplicative. “Because Google treated the copyright holders as a group,” Chin concluded, “the copyright holders should be able to litigate on a group basis.” But the appeals court disagreed with Chin, holding that Google’s fair use defense should be evaluated before determining class certification.
The original suit, filed in September of 2005, was the first against Google over its scanning program. And after almost eight years—including three years spent unsuccessfully stumping together for a controversial settlement—Chin’s denial of a two-week delay suggests he is eager to resolve the case.
Cross motions for summary judgment in the epic copyright battle were first filed in July of 2012. Just weeks later, however, Chin granted a stay in the case while the appeal was sorted out. The case now continues in the name of the Authors Guild and the three named plaintiffs (Betty Miles, Joseph Goulden, and Jim Bouton), with the fair use question front and center.
In opposition filings last week, Authors Guild attorneys argue that Google’s fair use analysis fails, and that its library scanning project is not a public service but a commercial attempt to “gain a competitive advantage over other search engines and to generate even greater advertising revenues.” Google counters that its scan plan is protected by fair use, and argues that the program offers public benefits as well as benefits to authors, and that there is no evidence of any harm to copyright holders.