Today, Judge Chin handed the Authors Guild a big procedural win. He issued an opinion that allowed the Guild to represent its members in the lawsuit, and then went on to certify a class consisting not just of the members but of all authors whose books Google scanned. He also allowed the American Society of Media Photographers to represent its members in the parallel visual artists’ lawsuit, along with the other artists’ groups who’ve joined together in that suit. This doesn’t resolve the merits of the lawsuit itself, but it does doom Google’s hopes of keeping the lawsuit from ever getting to the merits.
A U.S. judge awarded class-action status to thousands of authors challenging Google Inc’s plan to create the world’s largest digital book library.
U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin on Thursday said it would be more efficient for the authors to sue as a group, and that forcing them to sue individually would have risked disparate results and “exponentially” raised litigation costs.
The ruling is a setback for Google which asked Judge Denny Chin earlier this month to remove The Authors Guild and a photographers’ group from the lawsuit. Google had also argued that a class action was not appropriate because many authors were in favor of having their works appear in the company’s search results.
Chin’s ruling means the stage is now set for a trial on whether Google’s decision to scan millions of books amounted to fair use under copyright law. This fair use question has triggered passionate debate among lawyers and scholars, and reflects Google’s position at the time it was sued by the Authors’ Guild and a consortium of publishers in 2005.
From ars technica: Google dealt blow in book scanning lawsuit
Judge Denny Chin, who rejected a controversial settlement of the case last year, ruled on two distinct legal issues. The first was over whether the Author’s Guild was entitled to serve as a representative of its members. Google had argued that only individual authors could be plaintiffs because the case will require the participation of those individual plaintiffs to consider issues such as fair use.
But Judge Chin rejected Google’s argument. “The associations’ claims of copyright infringement and requests for injunctive relief will not require the participation of each individual association member,” he wrote.
More importantly, Judge Chin gave the green light for three individual plaintiffs—Betty Miles, Joseph Goulden, and Jim Bouton—to represent the vastly larger class of “persons residing in the United States who hold a United States copyright interest in one or more Books reproduced by Google as part of its Library Project.”