May 25, 2022

Google Books: Authors Guild and Google Meet in a Federal Appeals Court (Roundup)

From Courthouse News Service:

Profit motive aside, Google’s digital book database does not appear to be much different from the Hathitrust Digital Library offered to college students, a panel of 2nd Circuit judges seemed to agree at a hearing on Wednesday.


The same three judges who presided over the Hathitrust case heard the Authors Guild’s challenge against Google Books on Wednesday.

Before the 90-minute hearing began, Judge Pierre Leval announced that the “extremely important and complex issues” at issue warranted giving both sides a half hour to speak, and he peppered both with the most questions throughout the arguments.

The guild’s lawyer Paul Smith kicked off proceedings by noting that Google, unlike Hathitrust, stood to gain “billions and billions of dollars every year” on the search engine.

But only moments after he made this point, Leval cut him off by stating, “There is no distinction to be drawn between commercial and non-commercial [use].”

From Publishers Weekly:

Smith also argued that Google’s program differed from HathiTrust because Google displayed snippets—an argument that was the subject of some speculation after the Second Circuit, in one line of its decision upholding the HathiTrust verdict, noted that it was “important” that the HathiTrust does not display any of the works made available for searching. But the judges did not seem terribly concerned with snippets, and Smith offered only a tortured argument: Snippets “are not harmless,” he said, because researchers can simply use Google to look up quotes and facts, without ever paying for the book.

Judge Cabranes pushed Waxman on Google’s underlying profit motive, getting Waxman to concede that Google did see the project as having some value to its business, despite having made no profit on the project, and investing over $125 million in it. But Waxman only conceded what was already on record: that Google does benefit from the database by drawing people to Google’s search engine.

From Reuters:

Paul Smith, who represents the Authors Guild and several individual writers, told a three-judge panel at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that the Google Books project was a “quintessentially commercial” infringement designed to protect the company’s “crown jewel” search engine.

But Seth Waxman, a lawyer for Google, said the project “revolutionized” how people find books and, contrary to the authors’ claims, would actually boost sales by introducing works to more readers.

“There is no evidence in this record, none, of any market harm to the authors,” he said.

From the Associated Press:

The Authors Guild had appealed a judge’s ruling that tossed out its lawsuit, saying the Internet giant is violating copyright laws by failing to make transformative “fair use” under copyright law of the books it copies.

The author’s group wants Google Inc. to pay $750 for each of the more than 20 million copyright books it has already copied.

“In our view, the entire book search program is fair use,” Waxman said.

From Bloomberg:

A lawyer for the world’s biggest search-engine company called the project “incredibly transformative,” arguing its mission to help people find books online makes Google’s display of parts of the books a “fair use” under copyright law.

See Also: The Authors Guild Files Brief in Google Books Appeal & Proposes That Congress Establish a National Digital Library (April 11, 2014)

See Also: Roundup: Google Prevails in Authors Guild Lawsuit, Summary Judgment Filed New York District Court (November 14, 2013)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.