Google Inc (GOOG) To Argue About Book Copying In Federal Court Today

Posted Sep 23, 2013

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) is going to be persuading a judge in Manhattan that copying books for online searches without the authors’ permission is protected by copyright, according to Bloomberg.  Google’s argument is that the fair-use provision of the Copyright Act protects them from liability for copyright infringement.

Many authors and trade groups oppose of the project and claims Google has taken their rights away without compensation.  U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin will be overseeing the hearing.  This lawsuit has been ongoing for the last eight years and was filed by the Authors Guild along with other individual writers.

?Google has engaged in a massive campaign of bulk copying of books, which could adversely affect actual and potential markets for copyrighted books,? stated a group of authors in a court brief.

If Google is found guilty, it could cost them over $3 billion in damages and end the project.  Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has been spending $40 million on this project per year too.

Google says that by providing snippets of text from over 20 million books in online searches falls under fair use under copyright law because the action benefits the public and authors.  There is a way to buy their books through the service, which is how authors make money from the service.

?Plaintiffs have adduced no evidence that Google Books has displaced the sale of even a single book,? stated Google in a brief. ?A survey of authors has shown that the majority of authors approve of their inclusion in Google Books.?

Google’s two largest competitors, Microsoft and, also digitizes books, but gets permission from the copyright owners.

The Authors Guild and Google negotiated a settlement in 2009, but there was hundreds of objections from authors, publishers, and companies that compete with Google.  In 2011, Judge Chin rejected the revised agreement that was valued at $125 million.

The judge cited objections that Google required authors to opt-out of the project rather than opt-in.  Judge Chin said that this settlement would grant Google too much of a competitive over other companies.

Google and other opponents reached a settlement with certain opponents in 2012, but the authors did not settle.  Authors that oppose Google include Jim Bouton, Betty Miles, and Joseph Goulden.

The case is The case is Authors Guild v. Google, 05-cv-08136, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).  Regardless of whoever wins today, there will likely be an appeal.  The U.S. Supreme Court could step in and settle the case at some point.