Google v Authors Guild: a victory for readers’ right to choose

On 14 November, after eight years of wrangling, Judge Denny Chin of the Manhattan district court finally ruled in the case of Google versus the Authors Guild. At issue was Google’s scanning and digitisation of more than 20m books from libraries across the world, but at the heart of the case was question of what constitutes fair use in the age of the internet.For the Authors Guild, it was unquestioningly a violation of publishers’ and authors’ rights to copy their work wholesale and make “snippets” of it available online. For Google, and for many scholars and librarians who petitioned on its behalf, the indexing of those works is transformative, and adds to, rather than reduces, their value. After much deliberation, the courts have come to agree with the latter – it is, after all, what search engines have been doing to the web since it originated.

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