Clinic News

Decision in Authors Guild, Inc. v. Google Inc. (11/14/13)

The Clinic celebrates Judge Denny Chin's decision in Authors Guild, Inc. v. Google Inc., S.D.N.Y., No. 05 Civ. 8136 (DC), 11/14/13 finding that Google Book Search -- a project to digitize millions of books from major libraries across the country--is making fair use of those books under United States copyright law. Google digitizes the books, gives a copy of the digital versions back to the libraries, and creates a fully searchable index of the text in the books.

The Clinic filed a brief in the case on behalf of over five dozen scholars: humanities scholars who use the digitizations for "text mining, allowing them to do novel research about everything from United States history to the evolution of technological change in society; and law scholars who use texts for research are expert in intellectual property law.

Citing and quoting from the Clinic's brief, Judge Chin noted, "in addition to being an important reference tool, Google Books greatly promotes a type of research referred to as "data mining" or "text mining--   Google Books permits humanities scholars to analyze massive amounts of data . . . the literary record created by a collection of tens of millions of books.  Researchers can examine word frequencies, syntactic patterns, and thematic markers to consider how literary style has changed over time." The ability to determine how often different words or phrases appear in books at different times "can provide insights about fields as diverse as lexicography, the evolution of grammar, collective memory, the adoption of technology, the pursuit of fame, censorship, and historical epidemiology.'" (internal quotes omitted)

The decision makes clear these and other substantial benefits to society from  greater access to knowledge via digitizing paper books. These types of socially beneficial uses are precisely the types of uses that copyright is meant to support through the fair use doctrine.

The brief was filed by Jennifer Urban, Jason Schultz, Matthew Sag, and Babak Siavoshy of the Samuelson Clinic.