Google is not violating copyright laws by digitizing books for a massive online library, a federal appeals court ruled Friday in a decadelong dispute.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan agreed with a judge who concluded that the snippets Google showed customers from its database did not violate copyright laws.
Judge Denny Chin ruled in November 2013 that Google digitization of over 20 million books, mostly out-of-print titles, did not violate copyrights because the Mountain View, California-based company only showed short sections of the books in its database. Chin had said it would be difficult for anyone to read any of the works in their entirety by repeatedly entering different search requests.
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The appeals court agreed, saying: "Google has constructed the snippet feature in a manner that substantially protects against its serving as an effectively competing substitute for plaintiffs' books."
The Authors Guild and various authors had challenged Google, contending that the digital book project violated their rights.
Google Inc. has made digital copies of tens of millions of books from major libraries and established a publicly available search function. It planned ultimately to scan over 100 million books, including material from the New York Public Library, Library of Congress and several major universities.
The appeals court said Google's profit motivation does not in these circumstances justify denial of what is a fair use of the books' content.
"We see no reason in this case why Google's overall profit motivation should prevail as a reason for denying fair use over its highly convincing transformative purpose," the appeals court said in a ruling written by Judge Pierre N. Leval. "Many of the most universally accepted forms of fair use, such as news reporting and commentary, quotation in historical or analytic books, reviews of books, and performances, as well as parody, are all normally done commercially for profit."
Lawyers did not immediately return messages seeking comment.