Way back in 2005, the Authors Guild, an organization that represents American writers, filed suit against Google, alleging that the Mountain View company had used protected content for its book scanning project. Today, in a dramatic end to a legal battle that has stretched on for almost a decade, that lawsuit was dismissed in a Manhattan court by US Circuit Judge Denny Chin.
Google's book-scanning "advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders," Mr. Chin wrote in his opinion. "It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life."
The Authors Guild had argued that Google was not fairly compensating writers whose books it scanned. (Paul Aiken, the director of the group, has promised to appeal Chin's decision, according to Reuters.) In 2008, Google and the Authors Guild reached a tentative deal, in which authors would be compensated $125 million. But that settlement was rejected in 2011.
And so the Authors Guild pressed forward in court.
"This is a big win for Google, and it blesses other search results that Google displays, such as news or images," James Grimmelmann, an intellectual property law professor at University of Maryland, told Reuters today. "It is also a good ruling for libraries and researchers, because the opinion recognizes the public benefit of making books available," he added.
As GigaOM notes, one of the most notable parts of Chin's ruling is his assertion – contrary to what the Authors Guild had argued – that the Google project does not take away from authors' sales. Instead, it could be viewed as a kind of free advertising for writers, Chin implied.