Supreme Court Cements Major Fair Use Victory for Consumers in Google Books Case

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Today, the United States Supreme Court denied cert in the long-running Google Books case, Authors Guild, et al. v. Google, Inc., letting stand the Second Circuit’s landmark decision that digitizing, indexing, and displaying snippets of print books in internet search results constitute a fair use under copyright law.

The following can be attributed to Raza Panjwani, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“The Supreme Court’s decision to let the Second Circuit’s ruling stand reflects what we have long said: that fair use is a powerful and flexible doctrine that enables not only new works, but also innovative uses of existing works.

“The Justices were apparently unpersuaded by the plaintiffs characterization of the Second Circuit’s opinion as a ‘a radical rewrite of copyright law.’ To the contrary, courts have long held that new uses of creative works, especially those that increase the public’s access to those works, are permissible fair uses, ranging from displaying image thumbnails in search engine results to recording copies of television shows for later viewing. We can now add ‘empowering researchers from around the globe to search millions of books to identify relevant volumes in seconds’ to that list.

“We applaud the Supreme Court for declining the Authors Guild’s invitation to adopt an overly formalistic view of fair use that would have undermined the very purpose of the doctrine. Although we are glad to see this 12-year saga come to an end, the real shame is that we’ve had to wait so long to achieve legal certainty about something so beneficial to the public. This denial will hopefully lead to new efforts to expand our access to culture and knowledge through digital formats.”

You can read more about fair use at ReformingCopyright.org, or check out our issue page for more information.

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