The Author’s Guild lawsuit against Google has finally been settled after eight years. Publisher’s Weekly wrote a great article about it, so if you want more details than I’ll give you I recommend checking it out. Otherwise I’ll provide a brief overview:
If you haven’t used Google Books, you probably should. It’s Google’s book-scanning project, which allows full-text keyword searching. Fantastic for high school and college students, and also for me. My job requires me to do quite a bit of research, and so Google Books has been an invaluable research. When the Author’s Guild got wind of it, however, they became worried about their copyright protections and potential losses to the book market because of it. This led to a lawsuit that, as mentioned before, took eight years to sort out.
Finally, Judge Denny Chin gave his final decision on the matter. He announced that he considers Google Books to be of huge benefit to the public, and that it does not violate copyright law. He added that, rather than negatively impacting the book market, Google Books may actually be beneficial, as it encourages the purchasing of books that are most helpful to the researcher’s purpose.
Google may be happy with the decision, but the Guild is most certainly not, and plans to appeal the decision.
My thoughts on the matter are thus – I obviously love Google Books. It has helped me immensely by cutting down on research time and trips to the library. It was even more helpful while I was in Shanghai and didn’t even have access to an English-language library. Long gone are the days of pain-stakingly slogging through books, looking for relevant information. I would have no sympathy at all for the Author’s Guild if not for the fact that I know there are complete books on Google that are still under copyright. Maybe there are intricacies to it that I don’t know of that make even that fully legal, but as far as I know Google should not be able to make public the full texts of books that were published before 1923. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.
In any case, I can’t say I’ll be disappointed if (read: when) the Author’s Guild is forced to give up its crusade against Google Books, even if I think the defendant is not quite ethical. It’s kind of like the public smoking ban – maybe it’s unfair to restaurant and bar owners, but I’m sure as hell not going to complain.