The Google Books lawsuit proceeds apace. paidContent and CNet report that, in Google’s latest filing, the search giant is appealing the court’s decision to certify class action status for the Authors Guild. Google argues that the majority of writers actually approve of its scanning (58% according to a Google-commissioned survey), and that its scanning to provide search capability is a transformative fair use. Google suggests that even if the court rules it is not fair use in general, it will still have to decide on a case by case basis whether each individual book is or not.
Is Google Books really a fair use? It’s an interesting question. The funny thing to me is that the comments on the paidContent article and the CNet article take entirely different tacks. paidContent commenters insist that fair use was never meant to cover this sort of situation, and a win for Google would open the door to expanded uses later that might not be so fair. But on CNet, the commenters “see what Google is doing as a plus for humanity” and laud Google for “making a reasonable effort to preserve information that might otherwise be lost to the masses one day.”
The longer this goes on, the more interested I am in seeing exactly how the judge chooses to decide the case. Needless to say, it could have major implications for the future of copyright and the Internet. And of course the first ruling is just the beginning—the appeals will go on for years, I’m sure. It’s also possible Congress may make it irrelevant in the long run by passing legislation that specifically addresses Google Books style initiatives.
At any rate, we’ll see what happens sooner or later.