The NYTimes reports on the ongoing saga of the Google Books Project. "Google, based in Mountain View, California, has scanned more than 20 million books since its 2004 agreement with libraries worldwide to digitize books."
At issue is the content that has been scanned and put online without the copyright holders' permission. "The Authors Guild and groups representing photographers and graphic artists say the project amounts to massive copyright infringement."
However, "[a] federal judge on Monday appeared to favor Google Inc's legal defense of its digital books project, which could imperil efforts by authors seeking to block it. Google argues the practice constitutes fair use, an exception under U.S. copyright law, because it only provides portions of the works online."
Judge Chin noted that the "question of fair use relies in part on whether the project 'is a benefit to society.' Chin then rattled off several examples of how Google's project has helped people find information, including his own law clerks."
This presupposed the question: "Aren't these transformative uses, and don't they benefit society?" The Authors Guild argued that "the act of copying the books in and of itself violates the law, and copyright holders should at least be compensated. Chin countered by noting examples of people buying books after finding information about them through Google, suggesting the project can boost sales."
Although the case has not been litigated, yet, and Chin did not rule on the issue of fair use, "Chin's criticism of the plaintiffs' arguments echoed that of a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which appeared to be skeptical of the lawsuit in July."
After the recent HathiTrust decision where it was determined that HathiTrust's searchability created a transformative use of the material and fell under fair use, it seems that Google Books is closer to becoming a reality.