Google asks judge for library suit to be dismissed

The Authors Guild says Google doesn't have permission to reproduce portions of books for their digital library.

Author Jim Bouton is one of the three authors named in the case as a plaintiff.

And so the battle rages on.

The Authors Guild said in court Thursday that many authors have been negatively impacted by Google’s efforts to scan millions of books, while Google requested the lawsuit be dismissed. The guild doesn't have the right to represent the authors whose books were scanned, argues Google, because it doesn’t have the copyright to the texts that were scanned by Google.

There are currently three lawsuits against Google related to its efforts to scan books for its digital library program. The guild wants its case to be certified as a class action so it can represent all authors whose works have been scanned by Google. Google, which began the scanning process in 2004, has since digitized about 20 million books found in public and university libraries.

Google has said that because only parts of the books’ text are displayed, their scanning and display of these texts is protected under fair use. 

“The ultimate question is who owns the rights to display a small excerpt of the work,” Google lawyer Daralyn Durie told the judge in court on Thursday, according to Businessweek. “Many authors contracted that right away to publishers.”

The Authors Guild has requested a jury trial, and the judge for the trial, US circuit judge Denny Chin, told the parties that they can ask for judgment without a trial if they wish.

Chin rejected a settlement that was earlier suggested by Google and the Authors Guild. That agreement would have allowed Google – in exchange for $125 million – to obtain rights to display excerpts of in-copyright books without charge and to provide full online access to readers willing to make individual purchases or buy subscriptions.  Chin rejected the agreement saying that would have allowed Google access to full text of books without the company having to ask permission of those who held the copyright.

One of the key unresolved issues in the ongoing dispute remains the question of how to deal with "orphan works" – books whose copyright owners can't be located. 

Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.

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