- The Washington Times - Friday, October 16, 2015

Google has been given a victory in federal appeals court that will allow the tech giant to go forward with a project that has so far digitized and indexed more than 20.7 million books in the last decade.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled on Friday morning that the Google Books project does not violate copyright law, affirming a ruling delivered nearly two years earlier in the Southern District of New York.

Google has scanned the pages of millions of books since 2004 in order to create a public index of information that can be queried similarly to the tech titan’s namesake search engine.

Since 2005, however, Google has fought with book publishers who claimed “massive copyright infringement” and said that protected works were ending up being indexed by Google without their permission, putting intellectual property at risk.

In explaining the appeal panel’s unanimous 3-0 decision on Friday, Justice Pierre Leval wrote that the court agrees Google’s system is designed in a way that doesn’t run afoul of fair use law, contrary to the claims brought by copyright owners being represented by the Authors Guild, a writers’ group.

Google’s division of the page into tiny snippets is designed to show the searcher just enough context surrounding the searched term to help her evaluate whether the book falls within the scope of her interest (without revealing so much as to threaten the author’s copyright interests),” Circuit Judge Pierre Leval wrote for the court.

“The purpose of the copying is highly transformative, the public display of text is limited and the revelations do not provide a significant market substitute for the protected aspects of the originals. Google’s commercial nature and profit motivation do not justify denial of fair use,” he wrote.

The appeal was filed in November 2013 after U.S. District Judge Denny Chin told the Authors Guild that Google Books hadn’t damaged intellectual property since only limited chunks of text are available at a time and wouldn’t lend to anyone being able to easily pirate an entire book.

“We see no reason in this case why Google’s overall profit motivation should prevail as a reason for denying fair use over its highly convincing transformative purpose, together with the absence of significant substitutive competition, as reasons for granting fair use,” the appeals court agreed this week.

Google applauded the ruling and said in a statement that “we’re please “the court has confirmed that the project is fair use, acting like a card catalog for the digital age.” The company said previously that a win for the Authors Guild could have cost Google billions in damages.

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