The seven-year fight between authors and publishers over Google’s attempt to scan and digitize millions of books as part of its Google Library Project is almost certainly one of the longest-running copyright battles of the web era. The company recently agreed to settle a lawsuit launched by the Association of American Publishers, but a similar lawsuit with the Authors Guild is still under way — and now Google has just been given what looks like some powerful ammunition from a federal court in a related case, involving a group of universities known as the Hathi Trust, who were helping the search giant with its scanning program for research purposes.
There are elements of the Hathi Trust decision that make it different from the issues raised by the Google case, since it involves universities rather than a corporate entity, but the bottom line is that a federal court has decided scanning of books for search purposes is not an infringement of copyright — or rather that this activity is covered under the principle of “fair use,” and therefore should be allowed to continue. And in my opinion (and that of many others) the court was right to do so.
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