Google and the Authors Guild’s eight-year legal fight over digital books is coming to a head once again, as both sides prepare to make their final case next month about whether Google’s scanning of more than 20 million library books is fair use under copyright law.
In documents filed in New York federal court this week, Google argues at length that the scanning is “transformative” — a legal concept that gained importance after the Supreme Court used it in 1994 to rule in favor of rappers 2LiveCrew, who had sampled the Roy Orbison song “Pretty Woman” without permission.
The Authors Guild, meanwhile, filed its own brief that blasts Google’s transformative argument: “[The] only thing ‘transformative’ about Google’s display of snippets of in-print books is that it transforms online browsers of book retailers to online users of Google’s search engine.”
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Google attorneys also argue that “there is no traditional market in which authors are paid merely to have their books indexed or for allowing their books to be browsed.” Google does not “and would not” pay for such uses, the brief states, and despite the AG’s claims, “there is no reason to expect that a market for such uses is likely to develop in the future.”
The Authors Guild case “boils down to the assertion, restated or implied many times in many ways, that authors have a moral right, as opposed to an economic right, to control the uses of their works,” the brief concludes. “United States copyright law says otherwise.”