In a reversal of a court order, authors can no longer sue Google as a group. A three judge panel overturned a previous order that had allowed this and other protections to authors in the Google Books Library Project case.
The case was brought in 2005 as Google began scanning millions of books, to date an estimated 20-million books, and offered no compensation to authors or their estates in the case of a deceased author. The Author’s Guild, according to documents, was asking at least $750 per scanned book as payment. Google refused and the litigation was started. Google said the cost was too high and would cost the company “billions” if they were forced to comply.
In their ruling the judges stated: “Putting aside the merits of Google’s claim that plaintiffs are not representative of the certified class — an argument which, in our view, may carry some force — we believe that the resolution of Google’s fair use defense in the first instance will necessarily inform and perhaps moot our analysis of many class certification issues.”
The panel also stated, that Judge Denny Chin, who had ruled more favorably toward the authors and whose ruling they overturned had, “prematurely certified a class of authors without first deciding if the “fair use” defense under U.S. copyright law allowed Google to display snippets of books.” Chin had also ruled that, “it would be unfair to force authors to sue individually given the “sweeping and undiscriminating nature of Google’s unauthorized copying.”
No longer can a group of authors sue Google. Any legal suits must be brought individually and handled on a case-by-case basis.
Michael Boni, a lawyer for The Authors Guild said: “We’re obviously disappointed. We’re going to litigate the fair use now, and that is the shooting match.”
You can read more concerning the class action suit by following this link.
The case is Authors Guild Inc et al v. Google Inc, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 12-3200.