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Google Books class action can go ahead

JUDGE Denny Chin ruled on 31 May that US authors whose books were copied, without permission, by Google can proceed to sue the search engine company in a "class action". At the same time he rejected all Google's arguments that the case should be stopped.

He was scathing about Google's arguments that the Authors' Guild, American Society of Media Photographers and other visual creators' organisations could not represent authors (including photographers and illustrators):

...given the sweeping and undiscriminating nature of Google's unauthorized copying, it would be unjust to require that each affected association member litigate his claim individually.

When Google copied works, it did not conduct an inquiry into the copyright ownership of each work; nor did it conduct an individualized evaluation as to whether posting "snippets" of a particular work would constitute "fair use". It copied and made search results available en masse. Google cannot now turn the tables and ask the Court to require each copyright holder to come forward individually and assert rights in a separate action.

There's more in the link below for connoisseurs of judicial exasperation.

A "class action" in US law allows a case to be litigated on behalf of a "class" of affected people, even if all cannot be identified at the beginning. (A group action in the law of England and Wales requires everyone to sign up at the beginning, as the Freelance understands it.)

The class discussed in this ruling includes only authors who are US residents, and US publishers to whom authors may have assigned their rights. The action includes only books registered with the US Register of Copyrights within three months of their first publication. Further investigation is required of ways to protect the interests of the very many non-US authors whose books have been scanned.

Google continues to claim that its actions are "fair use" in the technical sense defined in US law. This will be the major question at trial. The huge expense of this process is a major argument against Google-inspired pressure to introduce the same vague "fair use" rules in Europe.

Last modified: 01 Jun 2012 - © 2012 contributors
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