Google Wins Stay From U.S. Appeals Court on E-Books Case

Google Inc. won a bid to delay a copyright lawsuit by the Authors Guild of America over the company’s plans to digitally scan millions of books while it appeals a decision that allows the plaintiffs to sue as a class.

U.S. Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan today granted Google’s request to stay the lower-court trial. Lohier said he wasn’t ruling on Google’s likelihood of prevailing on appeal. The Authors Guild didn’t file any opposition to Google’s request, he said in his order.

Google is being sued over its plan, announced in 2004, to scan millions of books from public and university libraries to provide snippets of text to users of its Internet search engine. Google, based in Mountain View, California, argued that the display of those excerpts is fair use under copyright law.

Google sought the trial delay citing “the prospect of a class-wide defeat -- with a judgment of potentially billions of dollars -- or a greatly diminished victory,” according to a court filing. “A stay is necessary to prevent this anomalous result,” the company said.

In August U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin, sitting as a trial judge in the case in Manhattan federal court, rejected Google’s request to halt the trial. He ordered proceedings to continue, noting the case was seven years old. In June, Chin had granted the case class-action status, which Google is appealing.

Maggie Shiels, a spokeswoman for Google, declined to comment on the stay. Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment about the ruling.

Argument Rejected

Chin 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.

Google said in court papers filed last week that the class “contains millions of different books written by hundreds of thousands of authors, many of whom believe they benefit from and approve of Google Books.”

Google said class representatives “seeking to dismantle Google Books cannot adequately represent absent class members who support the project.”

The company said in court papers that without a stay, the district court will consider and probably rule on the principal merits in the case before the appeals court reaches a final decision on class certification.

‘Seriously Prejudice’

Without a halt to the lower-court case, Google said, “class members will have an incentive to opt-out if Google prevails but not if plaintiffs prevail, which would seriously prejudice Google.”

Google also said in papers filed with the appeals court last week that Chin is considering whether to grant summary judgment, or a ruling before trial, in the case.

The case is Authors Guild Inc. v. Google Inc., 12-3200, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan).

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

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