In a decision handed down on October 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a lower court ruling that determined that Google’s library book scanning project is protected by fair use and is not copyright infringement. The suit, the Authors Guild v. Google, filed by the Authors Guild in 2005, charged Google with copyright infringement for scanning millions of titles and making portions of the titles available via online search.
Rejecting the Authors Guild’s appeal of Judge Denny Chin’s 2013 ruling in favor of Google, the court said that Google’s scanning and distributing the titles to libraries was a “transformative use which augments public knowledge by making available information about Plaintiff’s books.” The court rejected the guild’s contention that Google was providing a substitute for the works themselves, because Google’s public display of text is limited. The court also supported Google’s use of “snippets,” short passages displayed to help identify the works, and noted that “Google’s commercial nature and profit motivation do not justify denial of fair use.”
Finally, the court wrote that Google’s distribution of digital copies to participating libraries “is non-infringing, and the mere speculative possibility that the libraries might allow use of their copies in an infringing manner does not make Google a contributory infringer.”
In a statement, Google said it was “pleased the court has confirmed that the project is fair use.” Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the guild, said the organization was “disappointed that the court has failed to reverse the District Court’s flawed interpretation of the fair use doctrine.” The guild noted that, as of Friday afternoon, “it’s our present intention to petition the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari.”