Google scanning project brings ‘significant public benefits’, judge rules

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Google has won a court case over alleged copyright infringement in scanning and uploading millions of books.

After an eight-year legal battle, Google has won the right to scan and upload millions of the world’s books to the internet – defeating allegations that the ambitious project amounts to massive copyright infringement.

Denny Chin, the judge who presided over the case at a New York court, dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that the technology giant – which delivers passages from the digitised books within search results – has to date adhered to "fair use" under US copyright law.

More than that, though – he also said that the project was "transformative" for the literary world, adding that Google’s efforts would bring "significant public benefits".

"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," Judge Chin commented. "Indeed, all society benefits."

The case against Google was first raised in 2005 by the US Authors Guild, which demanded $750 (£466) for each book scanned. Based on the size of the digital library it was maintaining at the time, the Californian firm estimated this would incur a total cost of $3 billion.

In 2008, publishers managed to negotiate a deal with Google that would have seen it pay compensation to any writers whose works appeared in the online library – cash drawn from a $125 million fund. However, this was thrown out of court in 2011 on the basis that it gave the technology giant a "de facto monopoly" to scan books and present them online.

Given how long the lawsuit has wound on, Judge Chin’s decision might well be seen as something of a watershed for the world of digitisation. This is especially true given his opinion recognises that the project is beneficial to the public and not just a means of lining a search engine provider’s pockets.

Google’s book-scanning endeavour shows that digitisation isn’t just a means of archiving documents – it also makes it easier for people to access, reproduce and analyse that data.

To discuss how document scanning could benefit your organisation, give Dajon a call today – we’ll be happy to discuss your requirements.

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