As previously reported here , federal judge Denny Chin, recently heard oral arguments from Google and plaintiffs The Authors Guild and the American Society of Media Photographers in the cases entitled The Authors Guild et al. v. Google Inc., U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 05-08136; and American Society of Media Photographers et al. v. Google Inc. U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 10-02977 in connection with the request of thousands of authors and other artists to sue Google in a class action lawsuit. The lawsuit arose out of Google’s plan to create a massive digital book library. The authors and other plaintiffs contend, inter alia, that Google was violating their copyrights to the digitally scanned work, a claim that Google strenuously denied.
Judge Chin recently granted plaintiffs’ request to sue Google as a class action, and in the same decision he rejected Google’s bid to dismiss claims by the plaintiffs which would have forced the members of the plaintiff groups to sue Google individually.
As background, approximately seven years ago Google entered into an agreement with several large libraries, including the New York Public Library and the libraries of Harvard University and other leading universities to digitally copy books and other literature for its Google Books website. Google’s stated intent was to help users of its website gain easy access to the literature for research purposes.
Google has scanned more than 12 million books so far. It intended to offer short sections of the books online and claimed that this did not infringe on the plaintiffs’ copyrights because it constituted “fair use” under U.S. copyright law.
Chin based his decision on the fact that it would prove more efficient for the authors to sue as a group and that otherwise the plaintiffs risked disparate results as well as the prohibitive costs of maintaining individual lawsuits. He also noted that forcing plaintiffs to sue individually would be unjust because of “the sweeping and undiscriminating nature” of Google’s unauthorized copying.