Supreme Court sends Authors Guild packing, won't hear Google Books case

The Authors Guild has been trying to get a court to shut down Google's book-scanning/book-search program for more than a decade.

Last October, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals — the most publisher-friendly court in America — ruled that the program was legal. Today, the Supreme Court settled the question forever, by declining to hear the Authors Guild's appeal.

I've written a lot about this, but here's the tl;dr: if making a copy in order to create a search index violates copyright, then all search engines are illegal, because they contain billions, if not trillions, of copyrighted works that they ingest in order to create search indexes.

The Supreme Court did not comment in its order other than to say that Justice Elena Kagan did not participate.

Google, for its part, urged the justices to side against the writers because, in the end, their works would be more readily discovered. "Google Books gives readers a dramatically new way to find books of interest," Google's brief said. (PDF) "By formulating their own text queries and reviewing search results, users can identify, determine the relevance of, and locate books they might otherwise never have found."

Unlike other forms of Google search, Google does not display advertising to book searchers, nor does it receive payment if a searcher uses Google's link to buy a copy. Google's book scanning project started in 2004. Working with major libraries like Stanford, Columbia, the University of California, and the New York Public Library, Google has scanned and made machine-readable more than 20 million books. Many of them are nonfiction and out of print.

Fair use prevails as Supreme Court rejects Google Books copyright case
[David Kravets/Ars Technica]


(Image: Librarians Against DRM, Listen to My Voice, CC-BY-SA)