12-3200-cv UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT August Term, 2012 ( Argued On: May 8, 2013 Decided: July 1, 2013)
In a decision announced today, the Second Circuit decertified a class action suit brought by the Authors Guild, Inc. and told Judge Denny Chin to rule first on whether Google’s book scanning is fair use.
This is a victory for Google. The company has argued that the scanning of books has not hurt authors, but rather made long forgotten books available to a wider audience. They also claimed that allowing the suit to go forth as a class action forces authors who are happy about the scanning to join forces with those who are not.
This unanimous decision decertified the class action without prejudice. If Judge Chin decides that the scanning is not a Fair Use, then the class action suit could be reinstated. Complicating the issue is the fact that Judge Chin is now a member of the Second Circuit. You can read the entire court decision here. Docket No. 12-3200-cv
A parallel case brought against the Hathi Trust is also being heard by the Second Circuit. In that case the Authors Guild is appealing a lower court decision in which Judge Harold Baer ruled that the scanning of over 10 million books was FAIR USE. He stated “I cannot imagine a definition of fair use that would not encompass the transformative uses made by defendants’ [mass digitization project] and would require that I terminate this invaluable contribution to the progress of science and cultivation of the arts that at the same time effectuates the ideals espoused by the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act],” Inside Higher Ed Read more here.
Genealogists have a lot at stake with these decisions. Many “genealogies” are caught in the limbo of copyright with no likelihood of republication. A workable solution with Google or the University of Michigan’s Hathi Trust could make digital copies available quickly at a reasonable cost.