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Judge appears to favour Google in digital books project

Authors? Who cares about the people who write the stuff?

A federal judge appears to be favouring Google’s digital books project, which could imperil efforts by authors seeking to block it.

For those who came in late, Google, scanned more than 20 million books since its 2004 agreement with libraries worldwide to digitise books. However the Authors Guild and groups representing photographers and graphic artists say the project amounts to massive copyright infringement while Google says the practice constitutes fair use because it only provides portions of the works online.

In the US district court in New York Judge Denny Chin said the question of fair use relies in part on whether the project "is a benefit to society."

Chin then gave several examples of how Google's project has helped people find information, including his own law clerks. Edward Rosenthal, a lawyer representing the authors, said the project, "may benefit society in some instances," but it should be up to the copyright holder whether or not the work is displayed. The act of copying the books in and of itself violates the law, and copyright holders should at least be paid.

Chin countered by noting examples of people buying books after finding information about them through Google, suggesting the project can boost sales. But the authors have pointed out that people could compile entire works for free by using various search terms.

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