Evolutions in Scholarship

Big win for fair use

Thursday, November 14, 2013 4:45 pm

This morning brought good news to Google, libraries, and all of us who rely on fair use: Google Books, and the scanning project to create it, is a fair use! U.S. District Judge Denny Chin issued a decision in the 8-year legal battle between the Authors Guild and Google, with Google being the decisive winner. Judge Chin specifically noted that the libraries who partnered with Google to have their holdings scanned for the Google Books corpus may also make use of those scans (the libraries got their own local copies of their scanned volumes, which is where the backbone of HathiTrust evolved). And because there was a decision rather than a settlement, it creates opportunities for others to make similar uses by looking to this ruling for guidance. Although the Authors Guild has expressed its intent to appeal (frustrating, but not surprising; it is also appealing last year’s summary judgement in its separate case against HathiTrust), this is yet another big win in the fair use column!

For more:
Ars Technica
New York Times


  1. Hooray for Fair Use, but I’m more than a little nervous about Google being a step closer to controlling the world’s recorded knowledge.

  2. Derrik, similar sentiments were expressed by someone on Facebook earlier today, to which I responded that I would ultimately rather have a fair use win, with the good/bad Google factor, than a loss or narrow ruling. Someone else responded further, pointing out that because this case was dismissed/decided on fair use, and not a settlement between AG and Google, there’s actually greater opportunity for others to make similar uses, because a settlement giving Google a deal with the AG would have automatically excluded anyone else attempting a similar project without securing a separate deal themselves, which likely would have been prohibitively expensive, if not downright impossible given AG’s hard-line stance. The end of the NYTimes piece I linked to addresses this, too. While it’s likely the Google will remain in the lead – it has such a large head start, and SO MUCH MONEY! – at least this ruling doesn’t prohibit others from creating similar archives.

  3. Right. And, remember the Elephant. With libraries owning Hathi Trust, Google’s control over the books they scanned is not complete.

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