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Google’s “Google Books” program does not violate copyright laws, according to a U.S. district court judge’s ruling issued today.

In today’s ruling, New York U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin said Google’s scanning and cataloging of printed books fell within fair use because it was “highly transformative.” He also said that Google Books program didn’t hurt the market for authors and publishers selling original work.

Launched in 2004, the Google Books program attempted to scan and catalog printed books to make them searchable on the web. It also enabled people to view pages of those books if they were out of print or had proper permission from the copyright holder. Many big publishers took issue with this, and the Author’s Guild industry group took Google court over the matter. The guild initially claimed that Google Books program took money out of the pockets of authors, discouraged book sales on sites like Amazon, and more.

And that’s not all Chin had to say about the program. The judge went on to call Google Books as a valid research tool and praised it for preserving old physical books that would be lost to decay as well as making these books accessible to the blind.

The ruling is refreshing because it shows that big media industry players don’t get a free pass when it comes to copyrighted work. It seems fairly obvious that Google isn’t providing the service solely as a means of profit. Of course, the search and media giant probably will generate some revenue from Google Books — with people purchasing some of those books via Google’s online store as well as using Google’s search engine — but in the eyes of the courts, its status as a beneficial public service comes first.


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