Friday, November 15, 2013

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, The Google Books Scanning Project Is Deemed Fair Use!

In a victory for librarians everywhere, LLB reports that "Judge Denny Chin ruled today in favor Google in the book scanning case.  The ruling is consistent with the results in the Georgia State electronic reserve case and the HathiTrust case in particular."

According to LLB, Judge Chin used the established fair use factors to make his determination:

  • Purpose and character of the use (factor one):  Google’s use is “highly” transformative in that the word index helps readers, scholars, researchers, and other to find books.  Moreover, the manipulation of electronic text can help researchers discover historical trends in how words are used.  Google’s for-profit status is of slight concern because of the important educational purpose served by Google Books.  Factor one favors Google.
  •  Nature of copyrighted work (factor two):  The majority of books scanned are non-fiction.  Though fiction deserves greater protection, all scanned books were published and available to the public.  In any event, both parties in the case agree that the second factor is not determinative.
  • Amount and substantiality of the portion used (factor three):  Google scans the entire book.  Courts have held, however, that copying the entire work can be fair use in some circumstances.  Judge Chin notes that the key to Google Books is its ability to offer full-text search.  Google tightly controls and limits the display as snippets in response to a search.  Factor three weighs slightly against a finding of fair use.
  • Effect of use upon potential market or value (factor four):  The Authors Guild argued that Google Books would act as a market replacement for books.  Alternatively, a searcher can use multiple word searches to construct a book out of snippets.  Google enhances the book market as each display links to sources where the book can be purchased.  As such, it provides a way for authors to get noticed.  As for the snippet to books argument, someone would have to have a copy of the book in order to construct a copy from the online display.  In any event, this would not be possible as Google has blacklisted some snippets as never displayable.    The fourth factor weighs strongly in favor of finding fair use.

Judge Chin went on to say, "[i]t has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books."

I use Google Books a lot to help my law journals. During the cite-checking process, the law journal students often find that a citation is wrong, and it can be all but impossible to find the correct quotation in a book without reading the entire book. Now we no longer have to worry about that. Thank you to Google Books for your transformative use of the world's information. Please continue to do good with it. 

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