Appeals Court In Google Book Scanning Case Clearly Leaning Towards Fair Use Ruling
from the does-not-bode-well-for-the-authors-guild dept
We’ve discussed for years how the Author’s Guild has a very anti-technology, anti-innovation view on the world, and how their positions seem to really be more about representing the interests of big publishers rather than authors. And nowhere is that more clear than in the long-running lawsuit against Google for its book scanning efforts. The guild has already lost a similar lawsuit, against the Hathitrust (a consortium of university libraries) where a court found the scanning (which was done by Google) to be fair use. But the separate lawsuit about Google’s own scanning has continued.
The parties were back in court on Wednesday, supposedly to discuss the appeal of the lower court’s ruling on whether or not the Authors Guild can make this into a class action for all authors. Google had argued that it shouldn’t be a class action, since the different issues (and defenses) concerning different authors would be entirely different — and many authors actually support Google’s book scanning project, so it would be weird to include them in the lawsuit. However, the district court disagreed, and said that it’s fine to do it as a class action lawsuit.
Oddly, however, the three judge panel seemed less interested in that question than in the key question in the case: whether or not the book scanning was fair use. And, while it may be jumping the gun a bit, they certainly suggested that they think the scanning is likely to be considered fair use.
Judge Barrington Parker mentioned that he thought the book scanning effort “has enormous value for our culture” and that “there is a rather strong argument about the value of this project” and, finally, that the project has “enormous societal benefit.” Those are not the words of someone about to kill off the project. Also on the panel was Judge Pierre Leval, one of the foremost scholars on fair use, and the author of one of the most frequently cited articles on fair use. He apparently quizzed the Author’s Guild lawyer about why seeing a tiny snippet on Google Books would hurt an author. Leval also noted the similarities to another key fair use case, the one filed against Google by Perfect 10, concerning image search. There, the court found that thumbnail images were fair use. Leval noted the similarities here.
There was also this exchange, as written up by Jeff Roberts at PaidContent:
The court drew a laugh when it asked the Guild’s lawyer, Robert LaRocca, if the group would be comfortable betting the whole fair use ruling on a sample scanned book of Google’s choosing.
The judges also asked LaRocca to the explain why some authors were supporting Google’s position; he described them as “a very, very vocal group out at Berkeley.”
That’s incredibly condescending and ridiculous to authors across the country who have realized that having a giant digital index that helps people find books is actually a good thing.
Once again, we’re seeing the Authors Guild take an anti-progress, anti-technology position, probably costing their own members a huge sum in legal fees. It really makes you wonder who would want to support such an organization.