Google’s massive book scanning project can proceed.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case of The Authors Guild, Et Al., v. Google, Inc..[1] This effectively upholds the 2nd Circuits determination that “Google Books provides significant public benefits…[i]t preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life.”[2] This didn’t sit well with the Author’s Guild who released a statement that “[t]he price of this short-term public benefit may well be the future vitality of American culture.”[3]

Potentially hyperbole from the Author’s Guild aside, Google’s intent is to scan the roughly 130 million books in the world. According to Google, that is about four billion pages and two trillion words of text.[4]  The issue between Google and the Author’s Guild arises from the act of scanning books that are out of print but still covered by copyright.  Some figures suggest that these out of print but still under copyright books make up about 65% of all of the books ever written.[5]

Google’s model is to borrow these out of print books from libraries and collections, scan them, and then sell digital copies of these out of print books making the royalties available for the authors to claim. Further, “the company also hopes to reveal snippets of these books in Web searches, and claims this use falls under the U.S. Fair Use Doctrine.”[6]. It looks like Google was right, and the project can proceed.


--By Derek A. Jordan, Esq., Barnes Law

Derek A. Jordan is an associate attorney with Barnes Law, licensed to practice law in Tennessee.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.





[5] Id.

[6] Id.