The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has affirmed a New York court judgement and ruled that Google Books’ service is protected by fair use, as its snippet function is a “transformative use” and therefore not an infringement of copyright.
The court stated that the Google Books Library Project has indexed more than 20 million books since its creation in 2004. Users can search for books and look at portions of the text through Google’s snippet function.
The Authors Guild brought a case arguing that the snippet function infringed its members’ copyright and deprived authors of potential revenue from other sources online.
However, the Second Circuit stated that “[t]he purpose of the copying is highly transformative, the public display of text is limited, and the revelations do not provide a significant market substitute for the protected aspects of the originals.”
Additionally, with this decision, the Second Circuit has added “search” to the list of uses that qualify as a fair use defense to claims of copyright infringement. This means that protected material that results from searches using Google, Bing and other search engines will have a viable defense to a claim of infringement by the search engines.