Round one to Google
JUDGE DENNY CHIN ruled on 14 November 2013 that Google's mass book digitisation project is a so-called "fair use". He granted Google summary judgment in the copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild in 2005.
"We disagree with and are disappointed by the court's decision today," Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken said. "This case presents a fundamental challenge to copyright that merits review by a higher court. Google made unauthorized digital editions of nearly all of the world's valuable copyright-protected literature and profits from displaying those works. In our view, such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of fair use defense.
"We plan to appeal the decision," he concluded.
The Freelance has only read the judgement once. It appears that they key to Judge Chin's argument is the notion that:
The display of snippets of text for search is similar
to the display of thumbnail images of photographs for search or
small images of concert posters for reference to past events, as
the snippets help users locate books and determine whether they
may be of interest.
This will, we expect, be closely argued at appeal. The relevant technicality in the law of so-called "fair use" is: is this use "transformative"? It is far from clear that it is.
Not least among the issues, however, is the background question: why is Google doing this?
It's not likely that it wants to give away "snippets" out of the goodness of its heart (it doesn't have a heart).
It's not likely that a goal destroying the trade of workaday translation by hoovering up a database of all possible texts in all commercially important languages is sufficiently commercially interesting.
It seems likely that the long-term aim has something to do with "natural language" processing in English. The goal would be to get better at inserting advertising into our daily lives, by training machines to "understand" what our digital conversations are about - in other words to produce an unfathomable process that emulated Artificial Intelligence.