Class-Action Lawsuit Against Google Dismissed


On November 14, 2013, a class-action lawsuit against Google concerning the company’s unapproved scanning and uploading of copyright materials was dismissed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY). The judge ruled that Google’s use of copyrighted material was a “beneficial service” in that it gave users only “snippets” of information, which led to awareness of and access to many works.

The case primarily concerned Google Books Library Project, which scans collections of major research libraries and makes them searchable. With its advanced scanning techniques, it provides participating libraries with digital copies of books as long as a physical copy is actually in the library. Google admitted that copyright owners of the books did not give consent and they did not receive any compensation. However, Google claimed the entire operation was legal under the “fair use” clause, contained in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act. It states that there is no such infringement if the digital copies are to be used to benefit research or education.

In dismissing the lawsuit, the court found Google’s service to be “transformative.” It took several factors into account in its judgment, including a lack of “for profit” motive and the proportional amount of material taken from each book.

Google’s “fair use” defense has also served it well on other occasions. Copyright infringement has been charged against Google on several occasions. For instance, this lawsuit was filed in July 2005, along with two others that year. Agence-France-Presse (AFP opened a lawsuit, claiming that Google had taken material illegally from its website. The Association of American Publishers also filed against Google for scanning documents to be used with its Library Project. Google was successful in both defenses. In 2012, Google was also successful in another case, using the “fair use” exception.


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