Although it basically consists of scanning books in the millions, the Google Books Project is legal according to US Court. Many published authors, all gathered under the umbrella of the Author Guild, have sued Google Books on the case that it violates their copyrights and has used their books without their permission.
What Google Books does is to literally scan books taken from different libraries and then make them available to the general public. Therefore, if one does not have access, for different reasons, to a certain hard copy book, one can easily find and read it via Google Books.
The Authors Guild sued Google back in 2005, after the commencement of the Books Project in 2004. Google was the victor then as well, but an appeal followed suit on behalf of the authors. It was won on Friday, October 15th of this year.
The reason for the victory is the fact that Google, although it scans the books in the whole, it only presents on its website excerpts of the books and not all the pages. The judges, three in number for the appeal, considered that these excerpts are not sufficient display of information so that it could be considered infringement.
Nobody could actually take these small fragments of the books included in the Project and make use of them commercially. Also, in order for a reader to make full and consistent use of a book’s contents, they would actually have to buy it, because the small fragments found on Google Books are not enough.
Still, the authors found the decision of the court unfair. Although the Google Books Project is legal according to US Court, the authors still believe they are cheated of revenue that is rightfully theirs and that their valuable literary content is currently out in the open at the click of a mouse.
The authors see Google’s acts as illegal appropriation of goods and consider the giant corporation’s actions as a literal threat to the well-being of writers everywhere, since they have been basically robbed of some money that should have been rightfully theirs.
And, of course, speaking of money, the claims were not in pennies. Had the giant Google actually lost the case in 2005 or the appeal now, in 2015, it would have owed the authors its books has scanned, sums in the terms of billions of dollars.
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