A long-running court case against Google Book's mass digitisation of published works project brought by authors has been ruled as fair use and not infringing on copyright.
A disappointed Authors Guild which has been battling Google in court since 2005 immediately said it would appeal the judgement [PDF].
"This case presents a fundamental challenge to copyright that merits review by a higher court. Google made unauthorised digital editions of nearly all of the world’s valuable copyright-protected literature and profits from displaying those works. In our view, such mass digitisation and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of fair use defence,” said the Guild's executive director Paul Aiken.
Law professor James Grimmelman from the University of Maryland noted that the ruling applies to other companies than Google:
Also winners: Big Data companies. Green light to slurp in datasets containing copyrighted works and use them as grist for the mill.— James Grimmelmann (@grimmelm) November 14, 2013
On the Public Citizen Consumer Law and Policy Blog, lawyer Paul Levy said the decision is much more beneficial to the public than an original settlement proposal between Google Books and authors would have been, as it doesn't preclude other search engines to scan books.
"Unlike that settlement, which could have ensconced Google as the only search engine entitled to digitise books without the consent of their authors, this ruling provides a road map that allows any other entity to follow in Google’s path," Levy said.
Google offered to settle the case in 2011 for US$125 million, but this was rejected by a federal judge.