The petition was filed by the Authors Guild on New Years Eve.
In petitioning the Supreme Court, the Guild seeks to correct what it views as a flawed decision by the Second Circuit court of appeals in New York—and, specifically, what it contends is that court’s crucial misinterpretation of copyright law’s fair use doctrine. The Guild believes that this is an important case for Supreme Court review: there are circuit splits in several areas of fair use law and others need clarification. The Supreme Court has not heard a fair use case in over 20 years, and the fair use law has transformed greatly in that time.
“Google copied books illegally—without permission, and because it could. It was inconvenient for it to seek permission, so it’s that simple,” said Mary Rasenberger, Executive Director of the Authors Guild and a copyright attorney. “Its actions cannot be justified after the fact just because Google Books uses the books to provide a research service in addition to the many other uses it has made for profit.”
“Even so,” she added, “we’re not asking for Google Books to be shut down. All we’re asking is for authors to be compensated, if they wish, for the value their works bring to Google. We want to make that very clear. Our members are some of the biggest users of Google Books.”
“It is crucial to set proper boundaries for fair use,” Rasenberger continued. “If the Second Circuit’s expansive view of fair use is not checked, the exception will swallow the rule in no time. We have become spoiled by the riches of a well-functioning copyright system, and so we take it for granted. Let’s not now create a society that favors only sponsored or independently wealthy writers.”
Direct to Full Text of Petition (186 pages; PDF)