Court Says Authors Guild Has Standing To Sue Over Google Books, Despite It Not Representing Authors' Views

from the unfortunate dept

About a month ago, we wrote about how Google was trying to convince the judge in the Google book scanning case that the Authors Guild did not have standing to sue on behalf of authors. This was, in part, because different authors would have very different issues (especially on the fair use analysis), but also because lots and lots of authors didn’t seem to have a problem with what Google was doing (especially considering studies that have shown being in Google Books helps sell more books).

However, the judge in the case has ruled, mostly on a procedural basis, that the Authors Guild does, in fact, have standing to sue. It argues that associations have long been allowed to sue on behalf of their members, and the fair use analysis questions aren’t really a big deal. At worst, the court says it could split up the “classes” into different groups, so that those with specific issues could be judged separately. Of course, you could just as easily make the argument that this reasoning should have resulted in the opposite conclusion. If the court is going to lump different groups of authors into different camps, then shouldn’t each of those groups create their own class action suits, rather than putting them all under the Authors Guild’s umbrella? No one is arguing that there can’t be a class action lawsuit if the relevant class is assembled. There’s just a big question over whether or not the Authors Guild really represents the interests of the people included in the classes. And the judge doesn’t really address that question, other than to say those who don’t have a problem with Google Books can more or less opt-out of the class.

On one point, however, the judge’s reasoning does make sense: why did Google wait so long to challenge the Authors Guild’s standing. Elements of this case have been going on for many, many years. It does seem a little off to file this particular point so late.

I doubt many people are that surprised by the ruling, but it does mean that Google will have to continue the Google book scanning fight against the Authors Guild. In the long run, I still think any result only ends up harming the Authors Guild. They are showing themselves to be anti-innovation luddites who disregard the interests of the majority of their members, while grandstanding against any new technology that upends the old publisher-gatekeeper model. That may be useful for some big name authors they represent — since it’s all about keeping out competition from new authors, but it’s no path to the future.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Court Says Authors Guild Has Standing To Sue Over Google Books, Despite It Not Representing Authors' Views”

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27 Comments
Cowardly Anonymous says:

Fortunate

Actually, given the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, denying the Author’s Guild the ability to stand in for their members would almost certainly be overturned on appeal. However, this judge has found a clever way to enable authors to kill the law-suit.

Sure, an opt-out policy might be harder to defeat than an opt-in, but in the face of the state of the law Today, this actually looks more like the judge is doing everything he feels he can to help Google out.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

Re: Re: Fortunate

Citizens United held that a corporation represents stock-holders pooling resources to create political speech, without requiring that those same stockholders all come forward (rather, it falls to the corporate procedures to make the decision).

It is about aggregate groups having the power to speak on behalf of those they nominally represent.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

absolutely no indication that a majority oppose the Google litigation.
He didn’t say the majority oppose the Google litigation (which would require knowledge of their opinions).

He did say that the Google litigation was against the interest of the majority. This is a judgement that can be made on economic/business grounds from the outside without knowledge of the authors’ opinions.

It is quite possible that the authors’ opinions are in opposition to their own interests.

What we like is often not good for us!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Though by way of follow-up, Masnick’s headline screams:

Court Says Authors Guild Has Standing To Sue Over Google Books, Despite It Not Representing Authors’ Views

That is pretty much a statement suggesting that the majority of members of the Author’s Guild oppose the position of the guild and the ensuing litigation. That, of course, is pure bullshit.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

That is pretty much a statement suggesting that the majority of members of the Author’s Guild oppose the position of the guild and the ensuing litigation. That, of course, is pure bullshit.

Again, the data shows that it’s not bullshit:

The majority of respondents, 58%, said they approved of Google scanning their books, while 28% were neutral and 14% objected. Almost three out of four respondents, 74%, said they don’t believe that Google’s scans would affect them financially, while 19% say they have or would benefit and 8% said they have or would be harmed.

Care to take back your claim that it was “pure bullshit”?

RonKaminsky says:

Can't lose, in the end

As far as I can see, we cannot lose (or at least, lose everything), no matter what the outcome.

If the scanning and snippet view is ruled as fair use, we get a good precedent. If the Authors Guild manages to shut down Google Books, then many, many more people will be exposed to another “infomercial” about how screwed up copyright law is nowadays. My guess is that it will give the Pirate Party oodles of new followers in Europe, for sure.

Anonymous Coward says:

exactly, 100% bullshit, Mike makes the headline scream what he wants, to further HIS own opinion and view of it

that is exactly how groups work, not every member of a union, has to vote for a strike, for them to go on strike, or the union itself can order the strike if it feels it is needed, same thing, strawman much??

they need to BIG association gone, so they can destroy the little guy

Anonymous Coward says:

Silly question

When its claimed that the authors guilds opinion on this matter may not actually represent the opinions of their authors, would’nt it be prudent for the judge to confirm something like this, assuming a judge has the right and the resources.
Could he not simply ask for the contact details of all the authors officially represent, and have impartial officials pay them a quick call/visit, note down their response then poll them up to get a definitive answer

Do the authors agree in suing others for anauthorised access to their works?

I think more judges should be taking a more pro active approach to all their cases when possible, like the judge who learned Java in order to understand a case involving patents on java code. Now that guy has the right idea, shame we dont see that more often

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

When its claimed that the authors guilds opinion on this matter may not actually represent the opinions of their authors, would’nt it be prudent for the judge to confirm something like this, assuming a judge has the right and the resources.

Thus far, it seems that only Masnick is making such a claim.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I tend to discount self-serving studies commissioned by the defendant. The judge didn’t seem to buy it either. And what would have happened if the survey had been conducted by the Author’s Guild of their members? I’m sure they could give you some dramatic results as well. The bottom line is that the judge isn’t buying the Google-funded, Google-orchestrated “study” that just so happens to support their position as a defendant. No surprise there, except to perhaps you and Masnick.

Anonymous Coward says:

What about non-members?

It argues that associations have long been allowed to sue on behalf of their members, and the fair use analysis questions aren’t really a big deal.

What about authors who aren’t members of the Author’s Guild? Why should they get to represent me in a class action lawsuit?

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