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     WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Litigation between Google and the Authors Guild that has been ongoing since 2005 has resulted in a win for Google and university libraries, including Purdue University Libraries.  On November 14, 2013, Judge Denny Chin found in favor of Google and dismissed the lawsuit brought against them by the Authors Guild.

    The Google Book Project began in 2004 with Google entering into agreements with Harvard, Stanford, University of Michigan, New York Public Library and Oxford to scan books in their libraries.  As part of the agreement, participants in the project received a digital copy of the book.  Google created a database of the scanned works but only allowed snippets of works still protected by copyright to be viewed.  Full text access was only available to works in the public domain.  Over the years, many other universities, including Purdue, joined the Google Book Project. To date Google has scanned over twenty million books.

     The Authors Guild as the representative for many authors sued Google for copyright infringement.  Google has maintained that their scanning and posting of the works was fair use under the U.S. Copyright Act.

    Judge Denny Chin agreed with Google.  According to the Court, the use of the work was transformative, which is one of the factors considered under fair use.  Chin stated that “Google Books digitizes books and transforms expressive text into a comprehensive word index that helps readers, scholars, researchers, and others find books.” Another factor that the Court looked closely at was the market effect and whether or not it was harmed by Google’s actions.  Chin determined that the Google Books Project in fact expanded the market for books by helping the public discover books that they would never have known about but for Google.  Judge Chin also referred quite extensively to a recent decision in the HathiTrust v. Authors Guild lawsuit in which HathiTrust won on similar fair use principles and application of U.S. Copyright law.

 HathiTrust is a partnership of major research universities and libraries that is focused on preserving collections in digital form to allow access to the works for future generations.  Both legal victories are recognition that the digital world offers new and exciting opportunities to researchers and scholars and that the copyright law should be applied to new uses of works in a way that is consistent with the built in flexibility of the law and the intent of the Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

    This is a significant victory for libraries as well.  In the opinion, Chin noted that Google provides libraries with a digital copy of works that they already own which allow libraries to make lawful uses of the digitized copies consistent with the copyright law.  The Court found that such use is fair use and that the libraries would have no liability for copyright infringement.  This is good news for many libraries, like Purdue, who have digitization projects either in progress or under consideration.  The Google win allows such projects to proceed and provides greater access and research capabilities to not only library collections held at Purdue but to many collections around the world. 

      Not surprisingly the Authors Guild was not pleased with the decision and have indicated that they will appeal it to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

     The University Copyright Office was established in 2000 to advise Purdue University faculty and staff on the application of copyright law in a higher education setting and to provide information on current copyright issues. The Office also provides programs to promote compliance and awareness. 

     For further information about copyright or to set up an appointment, please contact the office at 765.496.3864 or Donna Ferullo, Director, at ferullo@purdue.edu. The Office is located in Stewart Center, Room 264A.


Donna Ferullo, JD, MLS, Director, University Copyright Office, Purdue University Libraries, 765-496-3864, Ferullo@purdue.edu

Related Web sites:

Purdue University Libraries University Copyright Office www.lib.purdue.edu/uco

HathiTrust – www.hathitrust.org