Overview Edit

In December of 2004, Google announced a partnership with several major libraries to make digital copies of their collections and permit the text of the literature to be searched online by the Google search engine.[1] Google agreed to provide its partnering libraries with a digital copy of the donor institution's collection.

Under the partnership agreements, the libraries would allow Google to digitize the print books in their collections, and Google would (1) index the contents of the books; (2) display at least snippets of the books among its search results; and (3) provide partner libraries with digital copies of the print books in their collections.[2] Google and its partners never planned to make the full text of any digitized and indexed books that are still within their terms of copyright protection available to searchers.[3] Rather, by digitizing and indexing books, Google and its partners sought to make the contents of print books more accessible to searchers, who could potentially buy or borrow books after seeing snippets of them among the results of Google searches.[4] Google also intended to sell advertising "keyed" to results lists incorporating the digitized books.[5]

Google's Library Project was itself part of a larger initiative initially known as Google Print and later renamed Google Book Search.[6] The Google Partner Program was also part of this initiative.[7] The Partner Program allowed authors and publishers to submit copies of their books for indexing in Google’s search engine.[8] However, because rights holders affirmatively chose to have their books digitized or indexed through the Partner Program, the Program was not subject to allegations of copyright infringement like those made against the Library Project.

The Library Project is described on its website:

When you click on a search result for a book from the Library Project, you’ll see basic bibliographic information about the book and, in many cases, a few snippets — a few sentences showing your search term in context. If the book is out of copyright, you’ll be able to view and download the entire book. In all cases, you’ll see links directing you to online bookstores where you can buy the book and libraries where you can borrow it.[9]

In addition, "Google Video" offers a search vehicle for material from archived television programs, educational videos, personal productions, and other video media. Users can search the closed captioning and text descriptions of its video archive for relevant results. However, in the case of both the Book Partner Program and the video program, content owners actively submit their material for inclusion in the searchable database. Only the Library Project does not seek authorization to copy from content owners. Hence, it is the only program that has been challenged in court.

After some academic and commercial publishers objected to the Library Project, Google took a brief hiatus from scanning to allow publishers time to identify works that they, i.e., the copyright holders, do not want to be included in the digital database. This has been referred to an "opt out" plan. The general rule of copyright law requires a prospective user to seek permission for use; Google has reversed the process by announcing its intention to digitize entire collections of the contributing libraries unless a content owner opts out by acting to withhold permission. This contributes to the content holders’ claim that Google is engaged in massive copyright infringement.

The Litigation Edit

Complaints for copyright infringement were filed against Google by a variety of authors and representatives of the book publishing industry.[10] The complaints specifically challenge Google's "Print Library" project, renamed "Google Book Search," an effort by Google in conjunction with several library partners to scan books into a digital format so that they may be searched textually.

The Parties’ Positions Edit

The complaint filed by plaintiff publishing companies (the Publishers) accuses defendant Google of massive copyright infringement. By digitizing copyrighted works without permission, Google is allegedly violating the copyright holders' exclusive rights to copy and/or display protected work.[11] Plaintiffs contend that Google’s project is strictly commercial because it "pays" for the libraries' collections by delivering digital [copies]] back to them; and, Google will realize significant advertising revenues as a consequence of its enhanced search capabilities.

Defendant Google essentially contends that its opt out program negates any infringement liability. But, if infringement were found, Google argues that its activity is protected by copyright's fair use doctrine. Google cites the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corp. as support for the proposition that Internet search engines’ indexing activities constitute a fair use.[12]

The Law Edit

As stated above, copyright law confers on the rights holder the exclusive right to control reproduction, display, and distribution of a protected work. Accordingly, in order to use a copyrighted work, one seeks permission from the owner and negotiates the terms, conditions, and payments for use. Google claims that for it to actively seek permission from every rights’ holder in the multi-library collections would be impractical and prohibitive.

The Publishers claim that Google's "opt out" program "stands copyright law on its head."[13] One cannot, they argue, generally announce one's intention to infringe multiple copyrighted works and collectively offer rights holders the opportunity not to have their work infringed.

Yet, the requirement that a copyright owner act affirmatively to stop non-willful infringement is not without precedent. The DMCA's "notice and takedown" procedures — requiring the content owner to notify an Internet service provider (ISP) of the existence of infringing content — may immunize an ISP from infringement liability when it serves as a "passive conduit."[14] And at least one court has found that a content owner was responsible for taking affirmative measures, i.e, using metatags, to prevent Internet search engines from automatically searching and displaying the owner's Internet content.[15]

Fair Use Edit

Assuming a court were to find that Google’s digitization of copyrighted works is infringing, the question becomes whether its activities are a fair use. The fair use exemption derives from common law and the First Amendment.[16] As codified in the Copyright Act, it establishes criteria for a court to consider in determining whether an infringing use is "fair." Specifically, 17 U.S.C. §107 provides that, notwithstanding other provisions of the law, use of a copyrighted work

. . .for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the amount and substantiality of the portion used for or value of the copyrighted work.

Because fair use is an "equitable rule of reason" to be applied in light of the overall purposes of the Copyright Act, other relevant factors may also be considered.[17]

The Purpose and Character of the Use Edit

The Library Project has the potential to be a great boon to scholarship, research, and the public in general. It is, nevertheless, commercial in nature because Google anticipates that it will enhance its service's utilization by the public and concomitantly increase advertising fees. With respect to the first factor, the purpose and character of use, the searching and indexing goal appears to be a highly transformative use of the copied text. There is little question that indexing basic information about any book alone, absent copying, would not constitute copyright infringement. While displaying snippets of text is closer to infringing activity, the prospective display, as described by Google, does not appear to usurp or negate the value of the underlying work.

The Nature of the Copyrighted Work Edit

Digitizing the collections of the named libraries will encompass both factual and creative works, the latter being entitled to the highest level of copyright protection.

The Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used Edit

How the court views the third factor — amount of the portion used — will be significant. In order to create its mega-database, Google will scan the entire copyrighted work, a major consideration weighing against fair use. But it intends to display, i.e., use, at any given time, only brief excerpts of the searchable text. Hence, is the digital reproduction incidental to an otherwise fair use or is it impermissibly infringing?

The Effect on the Potential Market or Value of the Work Edit

Finally, what will be the Library Project's effect on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted works? Here, Google makes a strong argument that its indexing and text searching capability has the potential to greatly enhance the market for sales for books that might otherwise be relegated to obscurity. Its "sampling" of text permits members of the public to determine whether they wish to acquire the book.

The Publishers counter that copyright owners routinely receive license fees for authorized sampling. Google’s project may deprive them of the opportunity to participate in the creation of similar databases over which they have control and input. The Publishers also expressed concern that the digital edition of the work Google returns to the participating library may facilitate piracy and/or additional unauthorized uses.[18]

Case law Edit

Although a court's finding that there is a fair use exception to copyright infringement is context-specific, it naturally looks to precedent for guidance. Google asserts that Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corp. supports its claim of fair use, and in many respects it does. In Kelly, the court found that Arriba Soft's search engine, which, in response to a user's inquiry, compiled a database of images by copying pictures from websites (and displayed them as thumbnail images, was a sufficiently transformative use of copyrighted material to be a fair use. Although providing indexing information alone does not implicate copyright infringement, displaying limited quotes from a literary work may be consistent with fair use.

Indeed, a quote from a literary work is a far more limited reproduction and display than a thumbnail image of a full-sized one. However, a major distinction between the Kelly case and Google's Library Project is that in the former, content owners voluntarily uploaded their images to the Internet.[19] Here, the search engine is copying material to create a new database to enable the search capability. Whether a new database and snippet sampling will erode a viable new market for authors and publishers remains to be seen.[20]

Hence, the arguably unique question presented is whether apparent prima facie infringing activity that facilitates an arguably legitimate use is indeed a fair one. In this broad respect, the Supreme Court’s decision in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.[21] is apposite. In Sony, the Court held that the sale of the video recording machine to "time shift" broadcast television for personal home viewing was not contributory copyright infringement. The Court articulated a new category of fair use, namely, time shifting. Although the factual underpinnings and legal precedent of this decision are not particularly relevant to nor controlling in the instant case, the Sony decision itself stands as a landmark in copyright law demonstrating the willingness of the Court to balance new technological capabilities against traditional principles of copyright law.

Although Sony sanctioned "time shifting" of in-home television broadcasting, neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor the lower courts have evidenced willingness to expand this judicially created category of fair use. In UMG Recordings v., Inc., a U.S. district court rejected out-of-hand the defendant’s proffered fair use defense as a justification for unauthorized copying of plaintiffs' audio CDs.[22] The defendant claimed that its unauthorized copying enabled it to provide a service to proven owners of a CD, namely "space shifting," or enabling them to obtain access to the music on the CD through its subscription service.

In the case of Google, many copyright experts see analogies to the technological considerations inherent in Sony. The digital scanning — the alleged infringing activity — is viewed as incidental to a valid and socially useful function, indexing.[23] Courts appear increasingly willing to acknowledge the utility of online indexing as a component of Internet functionality.[24] Others view Google's activity as prima facie copyright infringement, with little or no extenuating circumstances.[25]

Judicial proceedings Edit

On March 22, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected a proposed settlement of the class action lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild and a related suit by book publishers against Google for the mass digitization of books in several large U.S. libraries. The court ruled that the class action settlement would have redefined the relationship between copyright law and new technology, and encroached upon Congress’s ability to set copyright policy with respect to orphan works.

Subsequently, on September 12, 2011, the Authors' Guild and several prominent authors sued five university libraries that participated in Google's mass digitization project as well as a library consortium known as the HathiTrust after the universities announced their intention to offer access to some of the book scans Google had provided to them.

References Edit

  1. "Google Checks Out Library Books" (Dec. 14, 2004) (full-text). Participating libraries included those at the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, and Oxford University, as well as the New York Public Library.Participating libraries include those at the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, Oxford, and the New York Public Library. For details, click here.
  2. Id.
  3. Id. Copyright protection for books generally lasts "for a term consisting of the life of the author and 70 years after the author's death." 17 U.S.C. §302(a).
  4. "Google Checks Out Library Books," supra.
  5. Id.
  6. Association of American University Presses, "Google Book Search, Neé Google Print" (full-text).
  7. "Google Books Partner Program: Promote Your Books on Google-For Free" (2009) (full-text).
  8. Id.
  9. See [1]. For more background on the program, see Google's website (full-text).
  10. McGraw-Hill Companies v. Google, No. 05 CV 8881 (S.D.N.Y., filed Oct. 19, 2005); The Author's Guild v. Google, No. 05 CV 8136 (S.D.N.Y., filed Sept. 20, 2005).
  11. 17 U.S.C. §106.
  12. 336 F.3d 811 (9th Cir. 2003).
  13. Publishers: Value of Book Search Project Shows That Scanning Is Not Fair Use, 71 BNA Pat., TM & Copyright J. 94 (Nov. 25. 2005).
  14. 17 U.S.C. §512(b)-(c).
  15. See Field v. Google, Inc., 412 F.Supp.2d 1106 (D. Nev. 2006) (full-text).
  16. Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186, 219 (2003) (full-text).
  17. Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, 464 U.S. 417, 448, 454 (1984) (full-text).
  18. In addition to fair use, the Copyright Act contains additional limitations on exclusive rights of copyright holders. 17 U.S.C. §108, for example, gives certain reproduction rights to libraries and archives, but these provisions are not relevant to the issue discussed.
  19. Some observers suggest that uploading to the Internet may be construed as a limited license for foreseeable uses such as those by Internet search engines. See Jonathan Band, The Google Print Library Project: Fair or Foul?, 9 J. of Internet L. 1, 4 (Oct. 2005). See also Field v. Google, Inc., 412 F.Supp.2d 1106 (D. Nev. 2006).
  20. See Perfect 10, Inc. v. Google, Inc., 487 F.3d 701 (9th Cir. 2007) (full-text).
  21. 464 U.S. 417 (1984).
  22. 92 F.Supp.2d 349, 352 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (full-text) ("[D]efendant's 'fair use' defense is indefensible and must be denied as a matter of law.").
  23. See, e.g., Jonathan Band, The Google Print Library Project: Fair or Foul?, 9 J. of Internet L. 1, 4 (Oct. 2005); Christopher Heun, Courts Unlikely to Stop Google Book Copying, InternetWeek (Sept. 2, 2005) (full-text).
  24. See Perfect 10, Inc. v. Google, Inc., 487 F.3d 701 (9th Cir. 2007) (full-text).
  25. See, e.g., Elisabeth Hanratty, Google Library: Beyond Fair Use?, 2005 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 10 (2005); Raymond Nimmer, Google Lawsuit Begins; Fair Use (Oct. 3, 2005) (full-text).

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