Google wins 8-year fight with authors

Federal appeals Judge Denny Chin ruled that “all society benefits” by letting Google scan huge numbers of books.
Todd Heisler/New York Times/File 2011
Federal appeals Judge Denny Chin ruled that “all society benefits” by letting Google scan huge numbers of books.

NEW YORK — After eight years and countless delays, a federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit by authors against Google, saying the tech giant’s long-running digital book-scanning project provided “significant public benefits.”

“It 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,” Judge Denny Chin, of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, said in his ruling.

“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. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.”


The lawsuit dates to 2005, when authors and publishers sued Google for scanning print copies of books in huge numbers. Years later, they agreed to a $125 million settlement, but Chin rejected it in 2011, throwing the case into limbo. The publishers’ group later split from the authors and reached ian agreement with Google not subject to court approval.

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“This has been a long road and we are absolutely delighted with today’s judgment,” the company said in a statement. “As we have long said, Google Books is in compliance with copyright law and acts like a card catalog for the digital age — giving users the ability to find books to buy or borrow.”

Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, said the result was disappointing. “We do expect to appeal this result, and we disagree with the decision,” he said. “Google created unauthorized digital versions of most of the world’s copyright-protected books — certainly most of the valuable copyright-protected books in the world.”

James Grimmelmann, a professor of law at the University of Maryland, called the ruling “a win for Google and a big win for libraries and researchers.”