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Copyright and Fair Use: Tightrope Walk or Tug-of-War?: Authors Guild v Google

Authors Guild v Google

 

The Guild had sued Google in September 2005, after Google struck deals with major university libraries to scan and copy millions of books in their collections. Many of these were older books in the public domain, but millions of others were still under copyright protection. Nick Taylor, then the president of the Guild, saw Google’s scanning as “a plain and brazen violation of copyright law.” Google countered that its digitizing of these books represented a “fair use” of the material.  Our position was: The hell you say. 

Read the rest of the message from Roy Blount, Jr., to fellow members of the Author's Guild. 

 

Today we learned that the Authors Guild filed a lawsuit to try to stop Google Books (formerly Print). We regret that this group chose to sue us over a program that will make millions of books more discoverable to the world -- especially since any copyright holder can exclude their books from the program. What’s more, many of Google Print’s chief beneficiaries will be authors whose backlist, out of print and lightly marketed new titles will be suggested to countless readers who wouldn’t have found them otherwise.

Let's be clear: Google doesn’t show even a single page to users who find copyrighted books through this program (unless the copyright holder gives us permission to show more). At most we show only a brief snippet of text where their search term appears, along with basic bibliographic information and several links to online booksellers and libraries.

Google respects copyright. The use we make of all the books we scan through the Library Project is fully consistent with both the fair use doctrine under U.S. copyright law and the principles underlying copyright law itself, which allow everything from parodies to excerpts in book reviews. 

Just as Google helps you find sites you might not have found any other way by indexing the full text of web pages, Google Print, like an electronic card catalog, indexes book content to help users find, and perhaps buy, books. This ability to introduce millions of users to millions of titles can only expand the market for authors’ books, which is precisely what copyright law is intended to foster.

From The Official Google Blog, 9/20/2005