Authors Guild Says, “Infringement!” Google says, “Fair Use!”

Search engine behemoth, Google, recently filed for the dismissal of a class-action lawsuit filed by The Authors Guild. The civil suit against Google goes back to 2004 when a handful of authors claimed Google violated the copyright of their works via Google’s book scanning project.

The authors allege that Google hindered their opportunity to profit from the intellectual property that they, the authors, created.  To smooth things over, Google offered a settlement of $125 million, but Judge Denny Chin rejected the settlement in 2011.

The trial continues to grind forward.

Google, however, insists they’re complicit with US Code Title 17, section 107, which governs the “fair use” doctrine of copyrighted material. Google asserts that the snippets of the roughly 4,000,000 books — out of approximately 20 million — constitutes fair use and helps authors since their searchable index makes it easier for people to buy the authors’ works. Google also avers that their digitizing book project, which was largely developed to assist research libraries, is in no way illegal.

Essentially, Google is saying no harm no foul.

Therefore, on July 27, 2012, Google moved to have the trial dismissed on the grounds that the authors represented by the Authors Guild have not demonstrated that Google caused them economic harm.

According to the Authors Guild, however, Google is guilty of “massive copyright infringement.” The Authors Guild is asking for a summary judgment against Google that will ensure copyright protection for their clients.

In order to win the case, the Authors Guild must prove that the authors they represent suffered economic harm from Google’s actions. They must also provide proof that Google exceeded what’s allowed under the fair use doctrine that would deprive the claimants from monetary gain.

The Authors Guild has until August 24th to respond to Google’s motion to dismiss.

No matter the outcome of the class-action suit against Google, there are some things you need to know about copyright infringement and fair use.

First, when someone creates a written work in digital or paper format, the moment the work is created it is a copyrighted work. The same goes for audio, video, and multimedia intellectual property.

However, in order to fully protect your copyright against those who would infringe upon it, it’s important to have your copyright registered with the United States copyright office. A registered copyright gives you the ability to protect and defend your copyright in a court of law.

Next, there’s this little thing called, “the fair use doctrine.” The fair use doctrine allows limited amounts of your copyrighted material to be used for educational purposes, reviews, parody, research, and reporting the news.

Here are a few things to ask yourself when determining if someone else has exceeded fair use of your copyrighted material:

  • How much of your copyrighted work is being used?
  • Is it a substantial amount that’s being used out of the entire body of the material?
  • Is the material being used commercially or used in a not-for-profit setting to educate people?
  • Is the other party reaping the benefits of economic gain from your material?

The answers to these questions may not be so clear. That’s why it’s a good idea to talk to an attorney who understands intellectual property and copyright laws. An experienced online copyright lawyer can help you determine whether or not someone has infringed your copyright by exceeding what’s allowable under the fair use doctrine.

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