In what is a boon for the concept of a "World Library," the Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge from the Authors Guild and other writers claiming Google's scanning of their books amounts to wanton copyright infringement and not fair use.
The guild urged the high court to review a lower court decision in favor of Google that the writers said amounted to an "unprecedented judicial expansion of the fair-use doctrine."
At issue is a June decision by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals.
Google 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. "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."
With this decline, the Supreme Court let stand the lower court opinion. The Supreme Court decision means Google Books won't have to stop scanning or ask book publishers for permission to scan. In the long run, the ruling could inspire other large-scale digitization projects, including creation of a "World Library."
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.