In a case that lasted more than a decade, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, a week ago today, quietly issued an opinion that Google’s program to scan millions of books, including those still in copyright, is legal, reports The Atlantic.
Says the article, “A three-judge panel on the Second Circuit ruled decisively for the software giant against the Authors Guild, a professional group of published writers, which had alleged Google’s scanning of library books and displaying of free ‘snippets’ online violated its members’ copyright.”
In a second Atlantic piece about the decision, published yesterday, Dan Cohen writes: “Ten years ago there were no Kindles, iPads, or postcard-sized smartphones to read on. Now the growth of e-reading is unmistakable. In 2011, 11 percent of Americans read an ebook; in 2014, 27 percent did. (In the same period, the number of Americans reading a print book fell, from 71 percent to 63 percent.) In the past 12 months, Americans read 120 million ebooks on just one app used by public libraries — an increase of 20 percent from the year before. … With so much of the landscape for digital books forever altered, what does [last] Friday’s decision mean for readers, writers, libraries, and the public?”
Cohen then answers the question: “Although Google did tip entire library shelves into the scanner without regard for copyright status — triggering an unsurprising revolt from authors and publishers — the tech giant only shows small ‘snippets’ of in-copyright works. The full digitized books are walled-off, making only certain uses possible. Researchers can fact-check using Google Books, or they can examine the number of times particular words and phrases are mentioned in the corpus each year, but they can’t really read Google’s online version of most volumes.”
Thus, he says, “This makes Google Books a wonderful tool — a transformative one, in the eyes of the court, and thus non-infringing — but it also means that the service has ended up being more tantalizing than fulfilling.”
We urge you to read more about this item by clicking on the links to the two Altantic stories, above.