Google Books & Copyright

An interesting U.S. court decision recently; where authors sued Google for scanning their books and making ‘snippets’ of them available online through Google Books.

Read the Reuters article here.

The court found that “the project provides a public service without violating intellectual property law.”


“Google’s division of the page into tiny snippets is designed to show the searcher just enough context surrounding the searched term to help her evaluate whether the book falls within the scope of her interest (without revealing so much as to threaten the author’s copyright interests),” Circuit Judge Pierre Leval.

I’ve always found Google Books to be useful for research, however have noticed I can sometimes find enough information from the snippets to avoid sourcing the entire book. Usually though, I would have borrowed it from a library rather than purchase it anyway, so I suppose that doesn’t amount to any extra loss for the authors!

What do you think? Is it a great initiative in enhanced access to and sharing of knowledge, or is it a breach of authors rights? Are existing rules of copyright irrelevant in the new information environment? “How can we foster innovation and access to content while ensuring respect for those who have created it?” (IFLA Insights from the Trend Report)



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