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Sims comments on SCOTUS’ rejection of Google Books challenge

By April 21, 2016September 16th, 2023No Comments

On April 18, the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to Google Books digitization program, leaving in place a lower court’s ruling that the project amounts to “fair use.”

In 2004, Google began its effort to digitize tens of millions of books from major research libraries. Today, users can search Google Books using keywords or phrases and read some small amounts of text.

Editor’s Note: Nancy Sims, a copyright librarian and attorney with the University of Minnesota Libraries, had the following response on her Copyright Librarian blog:

Supreme Court Denies Cert in Authors Guild v. Google 

By Nancy Sims

Nancy Sims

Nancy Sims

Scanning books in order to make them searchable is fair use. (The Author’s Guild asked the Supreme Court to review the previous court’s opinions that Google Books’ scanning project is fair use, the Supreme Court decided not to hear the appeal (‘denied cert (certiorari)’), and that means the Second Circuit’s opinion on the case stands.)

This morning’s Supreme Court order list (PDF)

This case began shortly before I started law school, and has been an undercurrent throughout my legal career. It’s probably not -entirely- over at this point; Google may still ask for attorneys’ fees, for instance! However, it’s fascinating to reflect on this outcome from a lens of where we were about six years ago, when Jonathan Band and Tricia Donovan put out the “Google Books Settlement March Madness flowchart” (original here) for the Library Copyright Alliance.

I’ve (VERY roughly) highlighted where we seem to have ended up, from among the massive web of paths posited then:

Who knew? This is a pretty great outcome for libraries and the public. A lot of those other paths would’ve been even longer, and with less-clear outcomes.

Update: the Library Copyright Alliance have updated their ongoing “family tree” of the case to reflect today’s cert denial. It’s a great way to see the full process as it actually played out, as compared to in the nest of hypotheticals above.


CC BY-NC 4.0 Supreme Court Denies Cert in Authors Guild v. Google by nasims is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Mark Engebretson

Author Mark Engebretson

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