The digitisation of books by Google Books has opened up access to books that previously were limited to only a few. Others believe Google has exploited copyright owners for their own commercial gain. Since 2004, legal action by publishers, The Authors Guild (USA) and individual authors has ensued.
In November 2013, Judge Chin ruled in favour of Google citing fair use. Fair Use in the United States copyright act tries to balance the rights of the copyright owner with socially important uses such as criticism, news reporting, teaching and research by allowing unlicensed use of copyright protected works under certain circumstances. Judge Chin said Google’s use was highly transformative because it transformed text into a comprehensive word index to assist in search and it transformed book text into data for new kinds of research (Zimmerman, 2014). To be transformative, something new has to be created from a pre-existing work and not merely be a substitute.
The benefits of Google Books include:
improved search facility for books
broader access to works
increased audience for books
convenient links to booksellers
enhanced sales (Zimmerman, 2014).
Most of the arguments against such a project revolve around commercial companies, such as Google, profiting from or exploiting other people’s works for market dominance and financial reward. The Authors Guild argue that copyright owners should be consulted and compensated by commercial companies (The Authors Guild, 2014).
This case highlights to me, that both sides have valid arguments pertaining to access and compensation and balancing the needs and rights of creators, companies and users in the digital age is very complex.
The Authors Guild. (2014). Authors Guild V. Google. Retrieved from