A Win for Libraries

Have you heard about the recent ruling of the Google Books case?

The case began eight years ago when The Authors Guild filed a suit against Google for violating copyright law by scanning copyrighted books and making them available electronically.  Finally, last week, U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin dismissed the lawsuit and issued this (30 page) statement.

Why does this ruling matter?

Accessibility.

Essentially, the ruling judge decided that Google’s efforts in scanning tens of millions of books, which are still under copyright, falls under the guidelines for fair use and is therefore legal.  How is that possible?  By scanning these books, Google provided added value, which is unavailable in print form, by allowing users to search books electronically.  This feature greatly increased the accessibility of the books’ contents, which the judge decided was more valuable than any possible violation of copyright.  In addition, Google provides access to only the most relevant pieces of a text in the briefest form, with outside links to retailers and libraries where users can acquire full text access legally.

Why are librarians so excited?

To quote Ian Chant’s article from Library Journal:

In the opinion issued today, Judge Chin agreed that Google Books is not a place where readers can go to pirate books but a tool to help people find books that may be of interest to them. Chin cited libraries as a particular beneficiary, noting that “Google Books has become an essential research tool, as it helps librarians identify and find research sources, it make the process of interlibrary lending more efficient, and it facilitates finding and checking citations.”

Simply stated, Google Books has increased the accessibility of books, and enabled librarians to do a better job finding, researching and sharing those books with their patrons.

What do librarians love?

Information access.

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