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Google Books covered by fair use, Judge Chin rules

Google won its eight-year copyright battle with the Authors Guild on Thursday, after a judge said the search engine’s mass book scanning project falls under the fair use exemption

Judge Denny Chin (a member of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit but sitting as a first-instance judge) said in his ruling that Google Books provides “significant public benefits” and “enhances book sales to the benefit of copyright holders.".

“It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders,” said Chin.

“It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.”

In a statement, Google said, “This has been a long road and we are absolutely delighted with today’s judgment. As we have long said, Google Books is in compliance with copyright law and acts like a card catalog for the digital age – giving users the ability to find books to buy or borrow.”

Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, said in a statement that the ruling is a “fundamental challenge” to copyright. He said the authors intend to appeal.

The Authors Guild also separately sued a group of libraries, collectively known as HathiTrust, which lent millions of books to Google to scan for the project. In exchange for receiving the books, Google supplied the libraries with digital copies of the works. The Authors Guild is appealing that case, Authors Guild v Hathitrust, to the Second Circuit, after a New York district court found in October 2012 that HathiTrust’s actions constituted fair use.

In yesterday’s ruling, Chin said his fair use analysis applies to both Google and the libraries.

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