The Supreme Court of the United States has denied the Authors Guild for petition of certiorari in Authors Guild v. Google. This decision leaves the Second Circuit’s opinion affirming fair use in the Google Books case intact. In the Second Circuit’s opinion from October 2015, the court released its unanimous opinion, authored by Judge Leval, affirming that Google’s copying of books and display of snippets in a search index is transformative and a fair use. Additionally, the Second Circuit found that Google’s provision of digital copies to its partner libraries that submitted the particular work is not an infringement.
We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation. Today’s topic is “Fair Use Rights: For copyright to achieve its purpose of encouraging creativity and innovation, it must preserve and promote ample breathing space for unexpected and innovative uses.”
Fair use is a critical right and the most important limitation on the rights of the copyright holder. It permits the use of copyrighted material without permission from the rightholder under certain circumstances and has been called the “safety valve” of U.S. copyright law. Fair use is a broad and flexible doctrine that is responsive to change and can accommodate new technologies and developments. Notably, fair use is relied upon by everyone, including both users of copyrighted content as well as rights holders. This critical doctrine provides essential balance
Below are five news highlights on fair use from 2015 as well as my five favorite fair use resources created in 2015 (created for Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week 2015).
Five Fair Use Highlights from 2015:
- Second Circuit Affirms Fair Use in Google Books Case. In October 2015, the Second Circuit released its unanimous opinion, authored by Judge Leval, affirming the lower court’s fair use decision in Authors Guild v. Google, also known as the “Google Books” case. The Second Circuit held that Google’s copying of books and display of snippets in a search index is transformative and a fair use. This search and snippet function of Google Books allows for important research, including through text-and-data mining to allow researchers to conduct research that would not be possible without the large searchable database created by Google. Additionally, the Second Circuit found that Google’s provision of digital copies to its partner libraries that submitted the particular work is not an infringement. This digitization of certain works from library collections demonstrates an important partnership, which has allowed libraries to make fair uses of these copies, including to provide access for those who are visually impaired.
- Ninth Circuit Rules Fair Use Must Be Considered Before DMCA Takedown Notices Sent. In September 2015, the Ninth Circuit ruled in Lenz v. Universal Music, also known as the “Dancing Baby” case that “copyright holders must consider fair use before sending a takedown notification, and that failure to do so raises triable issues as to whether the copyright holder formed a subjective good faith belief that the use was not authorized by law.” In its reasoning, the Ninth Circuit confirmed that fair use is a right: “Fair use is not just excused by the law, it is wholly authorized by the law . . . The statute explains that the fair use of a copyrighted work is permissible because it is a non-infringing use.”
- YouTube Announces It Will Defend Some Creators’ Fair Use Claims. In November 2015, YouTube announced that it will protect “some of the best examples of fair use on YouTube” by defending some creators in copyright litigation. YouTube pledged to indemnify some of its creators whose fair use videos are subject to takedown notices for up to $1 million in legal costs if the takedown results in a copyright infringement lawsuit. This announcement is significant given that fair use provides essential balance to the copyright system, allowing for transformative uses including parody, commentary, criticism and innovation and videos posted to YouTube often rely on this important doctrine.
- Final Text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement Includes Language on Limitations and Exceptions. In October 2015, the twelve negotiating parties (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam) announced agreement on the TPP, concluding five years of negotiations. Although the final copyright provisions of the TPP had mixed results and ARL was disappointed by a number of the provisions and the lack of transparency during the negotiations, one of the positive aspects of the agreement was the inclusion and improvements in the final text on limitations and exceptions. The final text included language based off part of the United States’ fair use provision, with an addition for those with print disabilities, requiring “due consideration to legitimate purposes such as, but not limited to: criticism; comment; news reporting; teaching, scholarship, research, and other similar purposes; and facilitating access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.” The text confirms that the exceptions can apply “in the digital environment” as well as to uses with “commercial aspects.” Inclusion of this language is significant. While the final language could have been strengthened further, the final text still provides an obligation for parties to seek a balance and can be used as a basis for stronger language in future agreements. As noted by Jonathan Band in a paper exploring the evolution of the limitations and exceptions over the course of the TPP negotiations, “The incorporation of the non-exclusive list of legitimate purposes from 17 U.S.C. § 107 provides TPP countries a powerful basis for concluding that this balance is best achieved through the adoption of an open-ended flexible exception like fair use.”
- Authors Guild and HathiTrust settle last remaining issue (preservation); Second Circuit decision strongly affirming fair use stands. While the Second Circuit’s decision in the HathiTrust case was released in June 2014, the court did not resolve the issue of preservation, sending that issue back to the district court. In January 2015, the parties entered a settlement on the sole issue remaining issue, ending the litigation in a victory for HathiTrust and fair use. The Second Circuit’s decision found that creation of a full-text search database and providing access to the print disabled constituted fair use. In January 2015, however, the defendant libraries stipulated that they complied with Section 108(c) of the Copyright Act and agreed that for a period of five years, if they do not comply with the stipulation, it will notify the Authors Guild, “which, although not a Remaining Plaintiff in this Action, will accept notice.” Authors Guild released a statement after the settlement, noting that it would not seek an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Five Great Fair Use Resources from 2015:
- Fair Use Fundamentals Infographic. In celebration of Fair Use Week 2015, ARL created this infographic explaining that fair use is a right, is vitally important, is for everybody and is everywhere.
- A Day in the Life of a Legislative Assistant. Jonathan Band authored this document, giving a sample day in the life of a legislative assistant. This sample day shows just how often fair use is relied upon on a daily basis.
- Video: Fair Use and Technology. Fred von Lohmann explains how fair use is essential to every day technology and how we encounter it on a daily basis.
- Podcast: Fair Use Protects Culture From Copyright, Not the Other Way Around. TechDirt created a great podcast devoted to the important doctrine of fair use and how it provides an essential balance to the copyright system.
- 12 Fair Use Myths and Facts. For Fair Use Week 2015, ARL also produced a “Myths and Facts” document on fair use, covering twelve myths about what fair use is and how it can be used.
So what’s next for fair use in 2016?
First, a reminder that Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week 2016 is quickly approaching and will take place from February 22-26, 2016. A number of organizations and institutions are already planning to participate and have great events planned. ARL will be creating a new infographic, hosting blog posts, and posting new videos on fair use. For more information on how to participate or to see the great resources from last year’s celebration, visit the Fair Use Week website.
Additionally, the Authors Guild’s Google Books case may not be over as the Authors Guild filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court on December 31, 2015. However, the Authors Guild’s petition does not appear to be a particular strong one. Despite the Authors Guild’s claims that there is a circuit split on the meaning of transformativeness, it is not clear that the six circuits cited have actually split on the issue as the facts of the cases differ significantly. Furthermore, the argument that the Second Circuit has shifted to a one-factor test is clearly unsupported by the court’s October decision; the Second Circuit carefully analyzes all four factors.
In fact, Professor Jane Ginsburg noted in her article, Google Books and Fair Use: From Implausible to Inevitable? that the Google Books decision is probably not worthy of Supreme Court review. She stated that the decision “probably surprised no one” and that “courts came to interpret Campbell’s reference to ‘something new, with a further purpose’ to encompass copying that does not add ‘new expression,’ so long as the copying gives the prior work ‘new meaning.’ Fair use cases began to drift from ‘transformative work’ to ‘transformative purpose,’ in the latter instance, copying of an entire work, without creating a new work, could be excused, particularly if the court perceived a sufficient public benefit in the appropriation.” Ginsburg acknowledges that courts have interpreted transformativeness to include a transformative purpose and does not cite any circuit split on this issue. She also pointed out that the Second Circuit’s opinion was restrained and did not expand the fair use doctrine. If the Supreme Court declines to hear the Google Books case, the Second Circuit’s decision will stand.
Additionally, as noted yesterday, the Copyright Office has issued a notice of a study the 1201 rulemaking process which creates exemptions on a three-year cycle to allow for circumvention of technological protection measures. The exemptions requested during each cycle represent non-infringing uses, such as those that would operate under fair use in the analog world (that is, without the digital locks placed on digital copies). The notice of inquiry includes a number of questions that are highly relevant to fair use. For example:
1. Please provide any insights or observations regarding the role and effectiveness of the prohibition on circumvention of technological measures in section 1201(a).
[. . .]
3. Should section 1201 be adjusted to provide for presumptive renewal of previously granted exemptions—for example, when there is no meaningful opposition to renewal—or otherwise be modified to streamline the process of continuing an existing exemption? If so, how?
[. . .]
8. Please assess whether the existing categories of permanent exemptions are necessary, relevant, and/or sufficient. How do the permanent exemptions affect the current state of reverse engineering, encryption research, and security testing? How do the permanent exemptions affect the activities of libraries, archives, and educational institutions? How might the existing permanent exemptions be amended to better facilitate such activities?
9. Please assess whether there are other permanent exemption categories that Congress should consider establishing—for example, to facilitate access to literary works by print-disabled persons?
While these are important questions and it is good to see that the Copyright Office is at least considering the idea of permanent exemptions and a streamlined process, these questions highlight the fundamental flaw of the 1201 rulemaking process. As noted by the Library Copyright Alliance’s statement for the Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on 1201 in September 2014:
The fact that every three years the blind need to expend scarce resources to petition the Librarian of Congress to renew their exemption—or that libraries and educators have to seek renewal of the film clip exemption every three years—demonstrates the fundamental flaw in section 1201. That flaw is that section 1201 could be interpreted to prohibit the circumvention of a technological protection measure even for the purpose of engaging in a lawful use of a work. Congress should adopt the approach proposed by the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 and its predecessors, attaching liability to circumvention only if it enables infringement.
Fair use should apply equally in the digital world and technological protection measures should not be used to limit the fair use right. The fact that every three years, proponents of exemptions must use a great deal of time and resources to seek renewal of or a grant of exemptions to anti-circumvention rules to exercise the fair use rights is problematic and inefficient.
On December 31, 2015, the Authors Guild filed its petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States asking for review of the Second Circuit’s decision affirming fair use of the Google Books project. The Second Circuit held that Google’s copying of books submitted to it by libraries and display of snippets is transformative and a fair use. Furthermore, the Second Circuit held that Google’s provision of digital copies to its partners libraries that submitted the particular work is not an infringement.
The Authors Guild has challenged the Second Circuit’s ruling, questioning when a use is “transformative.” The Authors Guild asserts in its petition that there is a circuit split over the meaning of transformativeness and argues that the Second Circuit’s finding that Google’s digitization of works for the creation of a full-text search database and display of snippets was not transformative because it did not create new expression. The Authors Guild also asserts that the Second Circuit’s focus on transformativeness shifts the test for fair use from the statutory four fair use factors to a single factor.
It is far from clear, however, whether the Supreme Court will grant the Authors Guild’s petition. First, despite the Authors Guild claims a circuit split on the meaning of transformativeness, it is not clear that the six circuits cited in the petition have actually split on this issue as the facts of the cited cases differ greatly. Furthermore, the argument that the Second Circuit has shifted to a one-factor test is clearly unsupported by the court’s October decision. In its opinion in the Google Books case, as well as other fair use cases, the Second Circuit carefully analyzes each of the four fair use factors. While the transformativeness of the use is certainly an important aspect, it is not the only factor and the Second Circuit certainly does not treat it as the sole determinative one.
Soon after the Second Circuit opinion was released, Professor Jane Ginsburg noted in her article, Google Books and Fair Use: From Implausible to Inevitable? that the Google Books decision “probably surprised no one.” She noted also that “courts came to interpret Campbell’s reference to ‘something new, with a further purpose’ to encompass copying that does not add ‘new expression,’ so long as the copying gives the prior work ‘new meaning.’ Fair use cases began to drift from ‘transformative work’ to ‘transformative purpose,’ in the latter instance, copying of an entire work, without creating a new work, could be excused, particularly if the court perceived a sufficient public benefit in the appropriation.” Ginsburg acknowledges that courts have interpreted transformativeness to include a transformative purpose and does not cite any circuit split on this issue.
Furthermore, in reviewing the opinion, Professor Ginsburg stated that the Second Circuit’s opinion was restrained and did not expand fair use.
The court’s cautious circumscription thus suggests that the Google Books decision does not herald a new extension of an already-expanded fair use defense, but (at least until a competitor with equivalent resources appears) is instead sui generis. The Second Circuit’s abstention from addressing some of the district court’s fair use analyses similarly betokens the decision’s modest scope. For example, the district court embraced the long-spurned argument that defendant’s copying does the plaintiff a favor by bringing the work to greater public attention (“a reasonable factfinder could only find that Google Books enhances the sales of books to the benefit of copyright holders”), but the Second Circuit’s opinion forgoes such contentious flourishes.
Given that the Google Books opinion does not represent a true circuit split, the Second Circuit opinion does in fact review all four fair use factors, and the outcome was an expected one, the Supreme Court may want to pass on accepting the Authors Guild’s petition for certiorari.
*This blog post is now available in a PDF version as an issue brief here*
On October 16, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously affirmed the lower court’s fair use decision in Authors Guild v. Google, also known as the “Google Books” case. Google, through its Library Project, made digital copies of tens of millions of books submitted to it by libraries. It then included these copies in a search index that displayed “snippets” in response to search queries. The Second Circuit held that the copying of the books and the display of snippets is transformative and a fair use. Furthermore, Google’s provision of digital copies to its partner libraries that submitted the particular work is not an infringement.
This decision follows directly from last year’s positive fair use decision in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust. There were two main differences between the two cases. Google is a commercial party, while HathiTrust is non-profit; and Google displays snippets, while HathiTrust just provides page numbers. Judge Leval, the federal judiciary’s foremost expert on fair use who developed the concept of transformative use, carefully explained why these differences did not affect the fair use analysis.
In 2004, Google initiated its Library Project where it partnered with major research libraries. These libraries submitted books from their collections to Google, which then scanned, indexed and made them machine-readable. Since 2004, Google has scanned and indexed more than 20 million books, most of which are non-fiction and out-of-print. The public can perform searches on the Google Books database, which in response to a query lists books containing the search term. Sometimes links are provided to where a particular book can be purchased or a library where the book can be located. No advertising is displayed to the user of the search function.
If a user clicked on a specific book, Google Books displays a maximum of three “snippets” containing the search term. It does not allow a user to increase the number of snippets through the same search term and also “blacklists” snippets and portions of the book from view. It disabled snippet view for works where the snippet would satisfy the need for the book and, since 2005, excluded the use of snippet view at the request of a rightsholder.
Google allowed its participating libraries to download the digital image and machine-readable versions of the books that a particular library submitted for scanning. The agreements with the libraries required libraries to abide by copyright law in using the downloaded copies and to prevent dissemination to the public at large.
The Authors Guild and several authors sued Google, asserting that the project infringed their copyright. Google filed for summary judgment, arguing that its use was a fair use and in 2013, the district court ruled in favor of Google.
The Plaintiffs, which include three authors (the Second Circuit previously held in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust that the Authors Guild did not have standing to sue on behalf of its members) appealed to the Second Circuit, contending that 1) Google’s copying of entire books and providing snippet views provided a substitute for Plaintiffs’ works and was not transformative; 2) Google’s status as a commercial entity precludes a finding of fair use; 3) Google Books infringes on the Plaintiffs’ derivative rights in search and deprives them of the ability to license their works in search markets; 4) Google’s storage of digital copies expose a risk that Plaintiffs’ books will be made freely or cheaply available on the Internet; and 5) distribution of the digital copies to its library partners could cause Plaintiffs to lose copyright revenues if libraries make these copies available.
Fair Use Analysis
The Second Circuit begins its analysis by examining the purpose of copyright:
The ultimate goal of copyright is to expand public knowledge and understanding, which copyright seeks to achieve by giving potential creators exclusive control over copying of their works, thus giving them a financial incentive to create informative, intellectually enriching works for public consumption. This objective is clearly reflected in the Constitution’s empowerment of Congress “To promote the Progress of Science . . . by securing for limited Times to Authors . . . the exclusive Right to their respective Writings.” U.S. Const. Art. I, §8, cl. 8. Thus, while authors are undoubtedly important intended beneficiaries of copyright, the ultimate primary intended beneficiary is the public, whose access to knowledge copyright seeks to advance by providing rewards for authorship.
The court notes that the fair use doctrine was developed in order to support this purpose of supporting progress and that this doctrine was eventually codified under Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976. However, as confirmed by the Supreme Court, this statutory codification did not change the judicial doctrine of fair use.
Courts look at four fair use factors in evaluating whether a use is fair: 1) purpose and character of the use; 2) nature of the copyrighted work; 3) amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the whole; and 4) effect on the potential market.
First Factor: Purpose and Character
Turning to the first factor, the court focuses on determining whether the use is transformative while noting that a finding against transformativeness does not preclude a fair use finding. However, “transformative uses tend to favor a fair use finding because a transformative use is one that communicates something new and different from the original or expands its utility, thus serving copyright’s overall objective of contributing to public knowledge.”
The Second Circuit first examined whether the search function has a transformative purpose, quickly noting that in HathiTrust, it found that “the creation of a full-text searchable database is a quintessentially transformative use.” (As noted above, Judge Leval wrote the court’s decision. Judge Leval first coined the phrase “transformative use” in a law review article in 1990. Some have argued that the recent fair use jurisprudence strays from Judge Leval’s vision of transformative use because it has permitted the copying of entire works without transforming the works themselves. Judge Leval’s conclusion that Google’s creation of a full text database lays this criticism to rest.)
Turning to the differences between the Google Books search and HathiTrust, the Second Circuit considered whether the snippet view is also transformative. The court finds that
Snippet view adds important value to the basic transformative search function, which tells only whether and how often the searched term appears in the book. Merely knowing that a term of interest appears in a book does not necessarily tell the searcher whether she needs to obtain the book, because it does not reveal whether the term is discussed in a manner or context falling within the scope of the searcher’s interest.
The court notes that the snippet provides “just enough context” for a user to evaluate whether the book is responsive to her interests, but does not reveal enough to threaten the copyright interest.
Additionally, the court examines the case in light of Google’s status as a commercial entity, which also distinguishes this case from HathiTrust. While the Plaintiffs rely on dicta in a Supreme Court case that commercial uses are presumptively unfair, the Second Circuit states “while the commercial motivation of the secondary use can undoubtedly weigh against a finding of fair use in some circumstances, the Supreme Court, our court, and others have eventually recognized that the Sony dictum was enormously overstated.” The Supreme Court later ruled that Congress could not have intended a rule finding such a presumption and the Second Circuit has “rejected the contention that commercial motivation should outweigh a convincing transformative purpose and absence of significant substitutive competition with the original.” Ultimately, the Second Circuit concludes:
We see no reason in this case why Google’s overall profit motivation should prevail as a reason for denying fair use over its highly convincing transformative purpose, together with the absence of significant substitutive competition, as reasons for granting fair use. Many of the most universally accepted forms of fair use, such as news reporting and commentary, quotation in historical or analytic books, reviews of books, and performances, as well as parody, are all normally done commercially for profit.
Second Factor: Nature of the Work
The Second Circuit notes that the second factor “has rarely played a significant role” in a fair use determination. While courts have suggested that uses of factual works may be more favored than fictional ones, the court finds that the distinction between factual and fictional works is not dispositive in a fair use determination:
While each of the three Plaintiffs’ books in this case is factual, we do not consider that as a boost to Google’s claim of fair use. If one (or all) of the plaintiff works were fiction, we do not think that would change in any way our appraisal. Nothing in this case influences us one way or the other with respect to the second factor considered in isolation.
The court also notes that, in relation to the first factor, “the second factor favors fair use not because Plaintiffs’ works are factual, but because the secondary use transformatively provides valuable information about the original, rather than replicating protected expression in a manner that provides a meaningful substitute for the original.”
Factor Three: Amount and Substantiality Used
As in its decision in HathiTrust, the Second Circuit finds that the amount used was appropriate for the creation of a search database. Here, the court notes that,
Notwithstanding the reasonable implication of Factor Three that fair use is more likely to be favored by the copying of smaller, rather than larger, portions of the original, courts have rejected any categorical rule that a copying of the entirety cannot be a fair use. Complete unchanged copying has repeatedly been found justified as fair use when the copying was appropriate to achieve the copier’s transformative purpose and was done in such a manner that it did not offer a competing substitute for the original.
Thus, “[a]s with HathiTrust, not only is the copying of the totality of the original reasonably appropriate to Google’s transformative purpose, it is literally necessary to achieve that purpose.”
With respect to the amount used with respect to the snippet view, the court acknowledges that “enabling searchers to see portions of the copied texts could have determinative effect on the fair use analysis.” However, Google’s snippet view “does not reveal matter that offers the marketplace a significantly competing substitute for the copyrighted work.” The snippet view contains significant protections including limiting the size of the snippet to one-eight of a page, blacklisting of one snippet per page and one out of every page, providing no more than three snippets for each term searched and excluding certain books, such as dictionaries and cookbooks, from snippet eligibility. As a result, “a searcher cannot succeed, even after long extended effort to multiply what can be revealed, in revealing through a snippet search that could usefully serve as a competing substitute for the original.”
The blacklisting, which permanently blocks about 22% of a book’s text from snippet view, is by no means the most important of the obstacles Google has designed. While it is true that the blacklisting of 22% leaves 78% of a book theoretically accessible to a searcher, it does not follow that any large part of that 78% is in fact accessible. The other restrictions built into the program work together to ensure that, even after protracted effort over a substantial period of time, only small and randomly scattered portions of a book will be accessible. In an effort to show what large portions of text searchers can read through persistently augmented snippets searches, Plaintiffs’ counsel employed researchers over a period of weeks to do multiple word searches on Plaintiff’s book. In no case were they able to access as much as 16% of the text, and the snippets collected were usually not sequential but scattered randomly throughout the book.
[. . .] The fragmentary and scattered nature of the snippets revealed, even after a determined, assiduous, time-consuming search, results in a revelation that is not “substantial,” even if it includes an aggregate 16% of the text of a book. If snippet view could be used to reveal a coherent block amounting to 16% of a book, that would raise a very different question beyond the scope of our inquiry.
Thus, the amount used for both the search function and snippet view is appropriate.
Fourth Factor: Effect on the Market
The Second Circuit notes the importance of the fourth fair use factor which “focuses on whether the copy brings to the marketplace a competing substitute for the original, or its derivative, so as to deprive the rights holder of significant revenues because of the likelihood that potential purchasers may opt to acquire in preference to the original.”
With respect to the creation of a search database, the court again references its decision in HathiTrust, which found that search does not serve as a substitute for the original work.
With respect to the snippet views, the court found that this feature of Google Books does not harm the value of the original, due to the fact that snippets provide tiny fragments that are not continuous and, in the aggregate, amount to no more than 16% of a book. Thus, the snippet view “does not threaten the rights holders with any significant harm to the value of their copyrights or diminish their harvest of copyright revenue.” The Second Circuit acknowledges:
We recognize that the snippet function can cause some loss of sales. There are surely instances in which a searcher’s need for access to a text will be satisfied by the snippet view, resulting in either the loss of a sale to that searcher, or reduction of demand on libraries for that title, which might have resulted in libraries purchasing additional copies. But the possibility, or even the probability or certainty, of some loss of sales does not suffice to make the copy an effectively competing substitute that would tilt the weighty fourth factor in favor of the rights holder in the original. There must be a meaningful or significant effect “upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.” 17 U.S.C. § 107(4).
Furthermore, the type of loss of sale envisioned above will generally occur in relation to interests that are not protected by the copyright. A snippet’s capacity to satisfy a searcher’s need for access to a copyrighted book will at times be because the snippet conveys a historical fact that the searcher needs to ascertain. For example, a student writing a paper on Franklin D. Roosevelt might need to learn the year Roosevelt was stricken with polio. By entering “Roosevelt polio” in a Google Books search, the student would be taken to (among numerous sites) a snippet from page 31 of Richard Thayer Goldberg’s The Making of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1981), telling that the polio attack occurred in 1921. This would satisfy the searcher’s need for the book, eliminating any need to purchase it or acquire it from a library. But what the searcher derived from the snippet was a historical fact. Author Goldberg’s copyright does not extend to the facts communicated by his book. It protects only the author’s manner of expression. Hoehling v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 618 F.2d 972, 974 (2d Cir. 1980) (“A grant of copyright in a published work secures for its author a limited monopoly over the expression it contains.”) (emphasis added). Google would be entitled, without infringement of Goldberg’s copyright, to answer the student’s query about the year Roosevelt was afflicted, taking the information from Goldberg’s book. The fact that, in the case of the student’s snippet search, the information came embedded in three lines of Goldberg’s writing, which were superfluous to the searcher’s needs, would not change the taking of an unprotected fact into a copyright infringement.
Even if the snippet reveals some authorial expression, because of the brevity of a single snippet and the cumbersome, disjointed, and incomplete nature of the aggregation of snippets made available through snippet view, we think it would be a rare case in which the searcher’s interest in the protected aspect of the author’s work would be satisfied by what is available from snippet view, and rarer still—because of the cumbersome, disjointed, and incomplete nature of the aggregation of snippets made available through snippet view—that snippet view could provide a significant substitute for the purchase of the author’s book.
Thus, the Second Circuit concludes after evaluating all four fair use factors that Google’s creation of a searchable database and providing the public with snippet views is fair use and not an infringement.
The Second Circuit rejects the argument that Plaintiffs have a derivative right over the search and snippet view functions, stating that “there is no merit to this argument.” The court points out that copyright “does not include an exclusive right to furnish the kind of information about the works that Google’s programs provide to the public. For substantially the same reasons, the copyright that protects Plaintiffs’ works does not include an exclusive derivative right to supply such information through query of a digitized copy.”
The court similarly dismisses the argument that Google Books harms the existence or potential for paid licensing schemes. While the Plaintiffs cite the Google Books Settlement agreement that was eventually rejected by the district court as evidence for a licensing market, the Second Circuit notes that the settlement would have allowed users to read substantial portions of the books and therefore distinguishable from the current project which “in a non-infringing manner, allow the public to obtain limited data about the content of the book, without allowing any substantial reading of its text.”
The court also finds that there is no unpaid licensing market because the snippets displayed are “arbitrarily selected snippet[s] of text . . . the snippet function does not provide searchers with any meaningful experience of the expressive content of the book. Its purpose is not to communicate copyrighted expression, but rather, by revealing to the searcher a tiny segment surrounding the searched term, to give some minimal contextual information to help the searcher learn whether the book’s use of that term will be of interest to her.” Thus, the court rejects the Plaintiffs’ arguments that Google Books infringes on their derivative rights.
Although the Plaintiff’s assertions that Google’s stored digital copies could pose risks if hackers accessed them is “theoretically sound, it is not supported by the evidence.” The court points out that Google’s scans “are stored on computers walled off from public Internet access and protected by the same impressive security measures used by Google to guard its own confidential information. As Google notes, Plaintiffs’ own security expert praised these security systems.”
Distribution to Partner Libraries
The Second Circuit also rejects the notion that Google’s distribution of digital copies to the participant libraries that submitted the particular work is infringement, pointing out that the library is only permitted to use the copy in a non-infringing fair use manner.
The libraries propose to use their digital copies to enable the very kinds of searches that we here hold to be fair uses in connection with Google’s offer of such searches to the Internet public, and which we held in HathiTrust to be fair uses when offered by HathiTrust to its users. The contract between Google and each of the participating libraries commits the library to use its digital copy only in a manner consistent with the copyright law, and to take precautions to prevent dissemination of their digital copies to the public at large.
In these circumstances, Google’s creation for each library of a digital copy of that library’s already owned book in order to permit that library to make fair use through provision of digital searches is not an infringement. If the library had created its own digital copy to enable its provision of fair use digital searches, the making of the digital copy would not have been infringement. Nor does it become an infringement because, instead of making its own digital copy, the library contracted with Google that Google would use its expertise and resources to make the digital conversion for the library’s benefit.
The court acknowledged that while libraries could make infringing uses of these copies, this outcome is “sheer speculation” and there is no evidence on the present record to hold Google liable as a contributory infringer based on such speculation.
The Second Circuit’s decision in the Google Books case is a strong affirmation of fair use and demonstrates the importance of the fair use doctrine in responding to new technological developments. The search and snippet function of Google Books allows for important research, including through text-and-data mining to allow researchers to conduct research that would not be possible without the large searchable database created by Google. Additionally, Google’s digitization of certain works from library collections demonstrates an important partnership, which has allowed libraries to make fair uses of these copies, including to provide access for those who are visually impaired.
The Authors Guild plans to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of the United States, though it is far from clear whether the Supreme Court would grant certiorari in this case. In its litigation with HathiTrust, the Authors Guild decided to settle the preservation issue (the sole outstanding issue after the Second Circuit’s ruling in favor of fair use for the creation of a full-text searchable database and creation of accessible formats for those who are visually impaired or print disabled) and declined to pursue an appeal.
Watch Jonathan Band speak on what the decision in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust means for libraries.
On July 8, 2014, the Library Copyright Alliance filed an amici brief in the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Authors Guild v. Google in favor of Google’s transformative use in creating Google Book Search (GBS). The Southern District of New York previously ruled in favor of Google, finding that GBS provided significant public benefits and constituted fair use.
The brief notes that GBS has become an essential research tool for LCA members and includes numerous examples and quotations—both in the text of the brief and accompanying appendix—from librarians explaining the value of the snippet display provided by Google. The snippet display allows librarians and researchers to identify materials that are hard to find, conduct research, developing curricula and collections, make determinations on whether to request particular books through interlibrary loans, and checking citation.
The snippet display is a critical function that makes GBS a valuable research tool yet does not substitute for the full text, displaying only three short snippets in response to a query. The brief notes that the Appellants in the case negotiated and agreed to a settlement (ultimately rejected by Judge Chin, leading to this continuing litigation) which would have allowed Google to provide a free “Preview” service that would have allowed display of up to twenty percent of the book’s text—far more than the GBS snippet display. The brief points out that “If display of 20 percent of a book did not cannibalize sales of the book, then surely display of a few snippets of a book would not do so either.”
The third section of the brief discusses the relationship between Section 108 and fair use, addressing the argument made by the amici for Authors Guild . The brief points out that the Second Circuit’s own ruling just a month prior in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust rejected the argument that the existence of Section 108 forecloses reliance on fair use. Section 108 not only includes an explicit savings clause, but the legislative intent clearly demonstrates that specific exceptions codified in the Copyright Act “do not limit the availability of fair use for conduct that does not fall within its scope.” Legislative history in both the Senate and the House discuss the relationship between Section 108 and fair use, noting that Section 108 was designed to give libraries a safe harbor and rights in addition to fair use.
Finally, the brief notes that the copies Google made available to partner libraries constituted fair use. Quoting the district court, the brief points out that “the purpose of the library copies is to advance the libraries’ lawful uses of the digitized books consistent with the copyright law.” Even if the Second Circuit evaluates Google’s purpose, rather than the libraries’ purpose, the brief points out that GBS did not affect the market because libraries would not have paid licensing fees to digitize books in their collections; libraries do not have the budgets to pay for digitization licenses for legacy materials nor is there an efficient mechanism to pay for such licensing. The brief emphasizes that a potential market for extended collective licensing agreements are speculative and do not constitute existing or potential traditional markets.
Jonathan Band of policybandwidth recently released an analysis of the Second Circuit’s opinion in Authors Guild v. Hathitrust and what the decision means for libraries. His analysis is available here.
The library community welcomed the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, __ F. 3d __, 2014 WL 2576342 (2nd Cir. 2014). The decision has implications for libraries that go far beyond the specific facts of the case. This paper offers some preliminary thoughts on what these implications may be.
On June 10, 2014, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court decision in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust in favor of HathiTrust Digital Library’s (HDL) motions for summary judgment, finding that two of the three uses by HDL (creating a full-text search database and providing access to the print disabled) constituted fair use and remanding the issue of the third use (preservation) back to the district court to determine the standing of the plaintiffs to bring the claim.
The Second Circuit began its fair use analysis by noting that while the Copyright Act certain exclusive rights, “there are important limits to an author’s rights to control original and derivative works. One such limit is the doctrine of ‘fair use,’ which allows the public to draw upon copyrighted materials without the permission of the copyright holder in certain circumstances.” The court then detailed numerous examples of fair use that have been upheld by various courts, including district courts, appellate courts and the Supreme Court of the United States before going through the three HDL uses at issue.
Fair Use Factors
The Second Circuit summarized the four fair use factors codified under Section 107 of the Copyright Act and explained how these factors are evaluated. These factors include:
1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
With respect to the first factor, the court noted the importance of whether the use is considered “transformative” which it defines as “something more than repackage[ing] or republish[ing] the original copyrighted work. The inquiry is whether the work ‘adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning or message …’” (quoting Campbell, 510 U.S. 16 579)). The Second Circuit rejected the district court’s implication that a use is transformative if it adds value or utility, instead emphasizing that a transformative work is “one that serves a new and different function from the original work and is not a substitute for it.”
The court noted that the second factor evaluates the nature of the work and recognizes a greater need to disseminate factual works than fiction.
The third factor addresses the amount of the copyrighted work used and the court noted, “we assess the quantity and value of the materials used and whether the amount copied is reasonable in relation to the purported justification for the use.”
Finally, citing the Supreme Court case, Harper v. Row, the Second Circuit called the fourth factor, which assesses the impact of the use on the potential market, the “single most important element of fair use.” The court noted that “[t]o defeat a claim of fair use, the copyright holder must point to market harm that results because the secondary use serves as a substitute for the original work.”
Full Text Search
The court first evaluated whether HDL’s full text search constitutes fair use. The court explains the program, noting that the Libraries create digital copies of the entire books, but HDL does not allow viewers to view any portion of the books searched, but only to identify where a search term appears in a particular book. In evaluating the four fair use factors, the court concluded that three of the four factors favor fair use and upheld the district court’s determination that the full-text search constitutes fair use.
The Second Circuit found that the full-text search is a “quintessentially transformative use” as it is “different in purpose, character, expression, meaning, and message from the page (and the book) from which it is drawn.” The court further noted that the full-text search is more transformative than other uses previously upheld as fair use by the Second Circuit as well as other circuits.
With respect to the second factor, the court did not find it to be dispositive, noting that this factor may be limited in value where a creative work is being used for a transformative purpose.
Turning to the third factor, the Second Circuit pointed to precedent that copying a work in its entirety is sometimes necessary. It found that it was “reasonably necessary” for HDL to copy the entirety of the work in order to enable the full-text search function. Accordingly, this factor weighed in favor of HDL.
Discussing the fourth factor, the Second Circuit reminded that the analysis “is concerned with only one type of economic injury to a copyright holder: the harm that results because the secondary use serves as a substitute for the original work.” Here, the Second Circuit rejected the contention that market harm has occurred finding the full-text search does not substitute for the original. The court stated that it is therefore “irrelevant” that libraries may be willing to pay licensing fees to enable this type of transformative use. The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ suggestion that the risk of a security breach would impact the market, noting that HDL undertook extensive security measures and it could find no basis to assume such a breach would occur. Consequently, the fourth factor weighs in favor of fair use and, taken together, that the overall analysis of the four factors results in a finding that the full-text search database is fair use.
Access to the Print Disabled
Turning to HDL’s use of the works to facilitate access to the print disabled, the Second Circuit concluded that this use is also protected under fair use.
With respect to the first factor, the Second Circuit rejected the district court’s finding that creation of accessible format works is transformative. The Second Circuit equated the creation of an accessible format with a derivative work, but notes that even absent a finding of transformative use, a defendant may still satisfy the first factor. In finding that the first factor favors access to the print disabled, the Second Circuit first quoted the Supreme Court’s decision in Sony Corp of America which stated that “Making a copy of a copyrighted work for the convenience of a blind person is expressly identified by the House Committee Report as an example of fair use, with no suggestion that anything more than a purpose to entertain or to inform need motivate the copying.” The Second Circuit also pointed to legislative history of the Section 107 of the Copyright Act, the enactment of the Section 121 of the Copyright Act, also known as the Chafee Act, and Congressional concern for the disabled reflected by the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as evidence that the first factor weighs in favor of fair use.
While the court found that the second favor weighed against fair use, it noted that such a finding is not determinative in the fair use analysis.
Turning to the third factor, the court found it reasonable for HDL to retain text and image copies to facilitate access to the print disabled. It noted that the text copies are necessary to enable text-to-speech capabilities, but that the image copies are also of use and value for disabled patrons.
Finally, the court found that the fourth factor weighs in favor of a finding of fair use, noting that the market for accessible format works is insignificant and publishers generally do not make their books available in specialized formats. Evaluating the four factors together, the Second Circuit found that providing access to the print disabled constitutes fair use.
The Second Circuit declined to rule on the issue of whether HDL’s storage of digital copies for preservation constitutes fair use on the basis of lack of standing or live controversy. The court stated that the record before the district court did not demonstrate whether the plaintiffs own copyrights in the works where a replacement copy would be unobtainable at a fair price and thus subject to copying by the Libraries for the purpose of creation of a replacement copy in case of loss or destruction. The court stated that “[b]ecause the record before us does not reflect the existence of a non-speculative risk that the HDL might create replacement copies of the plaintiffs’ copyrighted works, we do not believe plaintiffs have standing to bring this claim, and this concern does not present a live controversy for adjudication.” The Second Circuit thus vacated the district court’s judgment regarding this issue and remanded the standing issue to the district court. In remanding this issue back to the district court, the Second Circuit did not suggest that preservation could not be considered fair use, but instead simply expressed skepticism that the plaintiffs had standing to bring this claim.
Orphan Works Project
The Second Circuit upheld the district court’s finding that the issue regarding the orphan works project was not ripe for adjudication. Because the orphan works project was suspended with no notice that the University of Michigan intends to revive it, there is no impending harm. The court further noted that there is no hardship to the plaintiffs in not deciding this issue because “it is far from clear that the University of Michigan or HathiTrust will reinstitute the OWP in a manner that would infringe the copyrights of any proper plaintiffs. If that occurs, the Authors may always return to court.”
The court emphatically rejects the authors’ paranoia, especially the ridiculous concern about the security of books in digitized format. The judge thought so little of the insecurity argument that the opinion ignored it (other than mentioning that Google takes security measures).
If the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals takes the same approach, the HathiTrust case is another loser for the Guild, as it put nearly all of its emphasis on the security argument at oral arguments.
In a powerful affirmation of the value of research libraries, Judge Denny Chin today ruled that Google’s digitization of millions of books from university library collections was a fair use. Chin cites the Library Copyright Alliance amicus brief throughout his opinion to support a fundamental proposition: that the Google digitization project and the resulting uses are “invaluable” to society at large, and harmless to authors. Indeed, digitization and search give “new life” to books that would otherwise have been “forgotten in the bowels of libraries.” Well, okay, libraries could probably have lived without that last part.
What lessons are there in this decision? Here are a few takeaways:
While we still await a decision in the HathiTrust case, it can’t hurt that Judge Chin, who now sits on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, wholeheartedly endorses Judge Baer’s reasoning in that case, and finds expressly that all of the libraries’ uses of the Google scans are fair. After all, the Guild tried to sue Google not only for its uses of the scans, but also for sharing scans with research library partners and contributing to any infringement the libraries may have committed. Chin rejects those claims decisively, relying on HathiTrust and endorsing explicitly all of the uses HathiTrust members have made: preservation, search, and access for the print-disabled. Chin even quotes this wonderful passage from Judge Baer, which always bears repeating:
“I cannot imagine a definition of fair use that would not encompass transformative uses made by [HathiTrust] and would require that I terminate this invaluable contribution to the progress of science and cultivation of the arts that at the same time effectuates the ideals espoused by the [Americans with Disabilities Act].”
In other words, today’s opinion is the strongest possible endorsement of library uses, as well as of Google’s uses, and it shores up Judge Baer’s opinion in that regard.
Amicus briefs really matter. Judge Chin relies on the LCA brief for core pieces of the opinion, including his finding that the Google project has significant benefits for the public (including libraries, researchers, the print-disabled, and more), and that those benefits are generally also favorable for authors, whose works are found and acquired by libraries and others by means of Google Book Search. The amicus brief filed by Digital Humanities Scholars is also crucial in helping Judge Chin explain the benefits of the book database for research.
The decision is a victory not only for transformative, non-consumptive search, but also for serving “traditionally underserved” libraries and their users, including disabled patrons.
It is time for the Authors Guild and other rightsholders to wise up and focus their energies on more productive pursuits. Years and years of litigation, millions in legal fees, and what have they got to show for it? It is beginning to look like individual authors have been sold a bill of goods by their leadership and by the lawyers that have been representing them in these cases. There is no pot of gold at the end of these lawsuits, and the research tools they’re trying to kill are their best hope of finding an audience. It is time for Authors Guild members, and for all authors who have supported this strategy, to ask themselves whether all this has been worth it. The Guild’s leadership has already said it plans to appeal, but perhaps it is not too late for members to suggest otherwise. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals is already deliberating on the HathiTrust case, and will surely issue an opinion before this case can be heard. The same panel hearing that case—Judges Leval, Cabranes, and Parker—will hear any appeal of this one. There is little reason to believe those judges will reverse Judge Baer in Hathi, and then the Guild will find itself once more arguing that what Google did was rank piracy even though its library partners were core fair users. The writing is on the wall and it’s time to back down.
Those are my main impressions and takeaways at this point, though I’m sure this is an opinion we’ll be discussing for weeks, months, and perhaps years to come.
Brandon Butler is the Practitioner-in-Residence at the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Clinic at American University, Washington College of Law.