Google Seeks Dismissal of E-Books Case

Google Inc. asked a U.S. court to dismiss a lawsuit by authors over the digitizing of books, saying that the company’s book-scanning program is a fair use of copyrighted material and a benefit to the public and authors.

U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin, sitting as a trial judge in the case, in May rejected Google’s argument that lawsuits by the Authors Guild and the American Society of Media Photographers should be dismissed because the groups lacked standing to sue for copyright infringement. The suits stem from Google’s plan, announced in 2004, to scan millions of books from public and university libraries to provide snippets of text to people who use its Internet search engine.

In a motion filed today in federal court in New York, the company seeks dismissal of the Authors Guild’s case, arguing that authors benefit from the project because their books can be more readily found, bought and read, while the public gains “increased knowledge.” Google also argued that the display of snippets of text is fair use under copyright law and that the authors haven’t been harmed by the display.

“Google Books furthers the objectives of the copyright laws because of the public benefits (including benefits to authors),” the company said in its motion. “Plaintiffs have adduced no evidence that Google Books has displaced the sale of even a single book.”

Confidential Documents

The Authors Guild, individual authors and publishing companies sued in 2005, claiming Mountain View, California-based Google hadn’t sought authorization from the owners of the digitized works.

Michael Boni, a lawyer for the authors, said he will file today a sealed motion for a judicial ruling in their favor, by hand rather than electronically, because “it uses a lot of documents Google marked ‘confidential.’” A redacted version will be filed at another time, he said in a telephone interview. Oral arguments on both parties’ motions for summary judgment are set for Oct. 9.

Last year, Chin declined to approve a proposed $125 million settlement between the plaintiffs and Google, saying it was “an attempt to use the class action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the court.” Further negotiations between the authors and Google were unsuccessful. The publishers remain in talks, Google has said.

‘Ball Four’

Besides the guild, the plaintiffs include authors Joseph Goulden, Betty Miles and Jim Bouton, the former New York Yankee who wrote “Ball Four.”

Google said in a February filing that it has scanned more than 20 million books, and that Web users can see excerpts in English from more than 4 million of them. The project began with the digitizing of books from the libraries of the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, Oxford University and the New York Public Library.

The authors’ case is Authors Guild v. Google, 05-08136, and the visual artists’ case is American Society of Media Photographers v. Google, 10-cv-02977, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).