Home opinion-and-analysis ShawThing Google can scan books – US Court decides

Author's Opinion

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of iTWire.

Have your say and comment below.

Google - at least in the US - has at last won the controversial right to scan books – copyright or otherwise – and include relevant segments of the text in its search results. It cannot make the book available in whole unless the copyright owner has agreed or the book is in the public domain.

On the surface that sounds reasonable. Researchers, students and those with a casual interest will be able to unlock a huge repository of information - if it is useful may lead to that work being purchased for the eventual profit of the copyright holder.

The 30 page ruling from US District Court Judge Denny Chin relied on a fair use case because “it was highly transformative and did not harm the market for the original work. Google Books provides significant public benefits … as an essential research tool,” and noted that the scanning service has expanded literary access for the blind and helped preserve the text of old books from physical decay.

Judge Chin also rejected the theory that Google was depriving authors of income, noting that the company does not sell the scans or make whole copies of books available. He concluded, instead, that Google Books served to help readers discover new books and amounted to “new income for authors.”

The Plaintiff – The Authors Guild INC – has said it will appeal the decision.

Google first started scanning books – now more than 20 million completed - in conjunction with several major research libraries in 2004. The fair use provision refers to the fact that search results can only deliver ‘snippets’ of books at no charge. In return, the participating libraries can loan out the digital copies – presumably within existing copyright guidelines or payment provisions.

All types of books – and now magazines - are scanned including novels, biographies, children's books, reference works, textbooks, instruction manuals, treatises, dictionaries, cookbooks, poetry books, and memoirs. Approx. 93% are non-fiction and the remainder are fiction. The majority are out-of-print and the search shows which libraries have copies or where the book may be purchased.


It is business – perhaps very good business for Google but also for copyright holders. The judge has determined it is legal to do so and the appeal will simply waste more time and money – we must accept that the world is now digital – not analogue.

I think the real benefit of this project – apart from generating more advertising revenue for Google – is the ability to analyse themes, changes and to cross-tabulate paradigms over time – something that computers are very good at.

The arguments against this seem to ignore the thriving e-book industry that now sells more digital copies than hard copies.


Are you looking to yield real value from your big and small data?

Are you looking to use Hardoop? What about Visual Analytics and Visual Statistics to find lucrative opportunities, risks and to improve targeted marketing?

If these topics are of interest to you then you cannot afford to miss these free Australian and New Zealand SEPTEMBER workshops.



As one of the world’s largest social networking services, Facebook handles a lot of user information, and requires input from an astounding range of stakeholders 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — from both inside and outside the business.

Discover how Facebook was helped to connect remote employees, vendors, consultants, and partners to applications and web services quickly and reliably - without risking sensitive data.



Explore your Network Treasure Trove to get the IT Budget you want

With Australian businesses projected to spend over $78.7 Billion why does it feel like you can never get the budget you need?.

In most cases your budget will get approved because the proposals are not only technically correct, but also provide good, credible evidence on how the spend aligns with key business objectives.

Did you know that your Network Monitoring tool can help you build a comprehensive business case without an MBA?



Ray Shaw

joomla stats

Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!






Join the iTWire Community and be part of the latest news, invites to exclusive events, whitepapers and educational materials and oppertunities.
Why do I want to receive this daily update?
  • The latest features from iTWire
  • Free whitepaper downloads
  • Industry opportunities