It was almost seven years and one massive proposed settlement ago that the Authors’ Guild sued Google for copyright infringement associated with what was then (2005) called “Google Print.” Google’s book-scanning project was re-named Google Book Search (something that has always struck me as an unpersuasive bit of rhetorical re-branding), but the core issue remained the same: Could Google successfully avoid copyright liability by invoking the doctrine of fair use?
The proposed settlement elided that question, but when the settlement was rejected and the case resumed, it was inevitable that it would be presented squarely to the trial judge. And Google has now done just that: Last week, it moved for summary judgment on all of the plaintiff’s claims – on the ground of fair use.
I don’t want to re-hash the nuances of the Google Print fair use assessments that were bandied about the Internet years ago. I do, however, want to point again to some earlier posts of mine that surveyed the Authors Guild v. Google landscape and came to some conclusions that I concern me – and that still do. (There are a number of links in their to posts by other copyright scholars – be sure to follow along.) In the Internet age, sometimes the passage of seven years makes everything that you used to think irrelevant. But I haven’t changed my mind.
From the archives:
- On the Authors Guild case as “bet the Internet” litigation – for Google (the case isn’t just about access to books; it’s about Google’s core search functionality – which turns a “bet the company” case into something bigger)
- On the copyright implications of Google’s turning books into data – and whether Google should fight the case at all (it should, I argued; well-financed fair use arguments are few and far between)
- On a transactions cost view of the whole thing (why can’t we just get along?) (also see an old post from Rebecca Tushnet that makes a similar point)
- How Google Book Search relates to cloud services (betting the Internet?)
In sum: plus ça change, ….