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June 4, 2012

US judge allows authors guild to sue Google jointly

All US authors can now sue Google in a class-action lawsuit, and not individually

By CBR Staff Writer

A New York judge has allowed a group of authors the right to jointly file a suit against Google over the company’s plans to create a digital library.

With the decision, Authors Guild noted its book-scanning lawsuit against Google has cleared a major hurdle, as authors will not have to sue Google individually for copyright infringement over Google Books.

Authors Guild president Scott Turow said, "We’re one big step closer to justice being done for U.S. authors."

The class of authors includes all US authors and their heirs with a copyright interest in books scanned by Google as part of its Library Project.

The Guild said Google has scanned 12 million books for its proposed digital library, the majority of which are believed to be protected by copyright, without seeking permission from the authors concerned.

Books from all over the world were copied, but US works predominate, according to The Authors Guild.

Google’s liability for copyright infringement has not yet been determined by the court though the company’s says that its actions are protected by fair use.

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Google said, "As we’ve said all along we are confident that Google Books is fully compliant with copyright law."

Manhattan federal judge Denny Chin also rejected Google’s bid to dismiss claims by the Authors Guild and association representing photographers to sue the company as a group, which could have forced them to fight the case against the search major individually.

Judge Denny Chin is scheduled to hear summary judgment motions on the case in September 2012.

If Google is found infringing copyright, statutory damages for willful infringement could be between $750 and $30,000 per work under the copyright law.

Chin last year rejected a $125m settlement between the parties as they failed to reach a common agreement.

The case arose after Google’s plan in 2004 to develop a digital library of books by digitally scanning books to provide snippets of text online to internet users.

The associations sued Google in 2005 for copyright infringement alleging the practice is likely to make the books pirated.

Google has already entered into contracts with libraries for scanning, distributing and displaying about 20 million books for the project and planned to have 130 million books in the company’s digital library.

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