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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  1. icon
    Richard (profile), 1 Jun 2012 @ 6:42am


    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!

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