Google Wins Again!

So, Google won another round in the fair use battle, now what? Google has been forging the way for the digitization of books for just over a decade now, with little victory steps along the way as they have climbed the ladder of the court system. The Authors Guild has stated that the next stop will be the Supreme Court. Odds are they will face another loss. While this victory may come as little surprise since Google won the initial case against the Authors Guild in 2013 in a US Circuit Court in New York, the victories for HathiTrust when they won their fair use trial in 2012 and the appeal last year only helped to strengthen Google’s case.

What does this mean for libraries? Libraries now have the backing of the courts as well as a clearer definition of what constitutes fair use. Does this mean that they will be more willing to forge ahead, broadening their own digital access to books and other materials? Google’s fight has helped libraries avoid or minimize legal and financial risks by paving the way, thus opening up a whole new direction for digital libraries. Will libraries now be able to digitize their collections for the sake of preservation without worry of copyright infringement? Will they be able to then offer those digital collections for checkout, provided they retain a physical copy?

Perhaps Google’s win raises more questions, but with the support of the legal system, opportunities for digitization have increased for libraries. And, Judge Leval’s statement: “While authors are undoubtedly important intended beneficiaries of copyright, the ultimate, primary intended beneficiary is the public”, certainly is in line with the mission of libraries in general.

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