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The Implications of the ReDigi Decision for Libraries

*Guest blog post by Jonathan Band, Counsel to the Library Copyright Alliance, which consists of the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries*

Summary

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has finally issued its long-awaited decision in Capitol Records v. ReDigi. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s finding that the ReDigi service, which allowed the resale of iTunes files, infringed copyright. The Second Circuit’s reasoning clearly closes the door on the concept of digital first sale in a commercial setting. It also raises questions concerning the viability of Controlled Digital Lending (“CDL”) by libraries. Accordingly, CDL initiatives must be carefully reevaluated in light of this decision.

  • The Second Circuit affirmed that the first sale right, codified at 17 U.S.C. 109(a), is a limitation on the distribution right, not the reproduction right, and thus does not provide a defense to the making of copies during the course of the sale of digital files.
  • The court rejected ReDigi’s argument that its technology transferred digital files without reproducing them.
  • The court rejected ReDigi’s argument that fair use permitted any copies it made.
  • The decision is problematic for CDL for two reasons:
  1. The decision is the most analogous precedent to the library sharing of digital files of copyrighted works; and
  2. The decision could be read as implicitly rejecting the cornerstone of CDL’s fair use argument: that the first sale right should have a positive influence on the analysis of the first fair use factor.
  • Libraries need to consider whether their CDL programs are likely to pass muster under a more traditional fair use analysis that does not rely on section 109 exercising a positive influence on the first factor.

Background

The now defunct ReDigi service allowed a consumer to sell iTunes music files to other consumers. Under ReDigi’s technology, the music file on the seller’s server was broken into small packets, which were transferred one at a time to ReDigi’s server. When a packet was transferred from the seller’s computer, it was deleted from her computer. The same process was repeated when the file was transferred from ReDigi’s server to the buyer’s computer.

Capitol Records and other record labels sued ReDigi for copyright infringement. In 2013, the district court rejected ReDigi’s first sale defense on the grounds that the first sale doctrine is an exception to the distribution right and not the reproduction right, and ReDigi’s technology infringed the reproduction right. Further, the district court rejected ReDigi’s fair use defense with little discussion, noting that ReDigi’s use was commercial, non-transformative, and harmful to the market for music files.

The Second Circuit held a marathon two-hour oral argument on August 22, 2017. On December 12, 2018, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision with an opinion written by Judge Leval, one of the country’s leading copyright jurists.

Judge Leval’s Opinion

Judge Leval agreed with the district court that the first sale doctrine provided ReDigi with no defense against Capitol’s claim that ReDigi infringed its reproduction right; the first sale doctrine was a limitation on the distribution right, not the reproduction right. Judge Leval then turned to ReDigi’s contention that it had not infringed Capitol’s reproduction right. ReDigi noted that in its system, each packet was deleted from the seller’s computer as soon as it was transferred to ReDigi’s server. Accord to ReDigi, at no time was there a copy of a file on both the seller’s computer and ReDigi’s server. ReDigi argued that this meant that it didn’t reproduce the file, but just transferred it. Judge Leval rejected this interpretation, finding that the “phonorecord”—a defined term in the Copyright Act–that ended up on ReDigi’s server was a different “material object” from the phonorecord that had existed on the seller’s computer. Additionally, Judge Leval observed that as a factual matter, ReDigi could not ensure that a user had not retained duplicates stored on devices other than the computer on which the user installed the ReDigi software.

Next, Judge Leval considered whether the creation of this new phonorecord was a fair use. His analysis of fair use was more thorough and thoughtful than the district court’s, although he reached the same conclusion. He focused on the first and fourth factors, the purpose and character of the use and the impact of the use on the market for the work. His first factor analysis centered on whether the use was transformative—whether the use “adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message, that than merely superseding the original work.” He explained, “uses that criticize, comment on, provide information about, or provide new uses for the copyrighted work are those likely to be deemed transformative.”

Additionally, Judge Leval stated that a secondary use may be transformative if it expands the utility of the original. Examples of utility-expanding transformative fair uses include scanning books to create a full text searchable database (Authors Guild v. HathTrust); copying works into a database to detect plagiarism (A.V. ex. rel. Vanderhye v. iPardigms); and displaying low resolution thumbnail images to facilitate image search (Perfect 10 v. Amazon, Kelly v. Arriba Soft).

To this familiar list of utility-expanding uses Judge Leval added the Supreme Court’s decision in Sony v. Universal, where the Court found that fair use permitted a consumer to record a television broadcast for viewing a more convenient time. Sony typically is treated as a paradigmatic example of a non-transformative fair use. Judge Leval, however, endorsed the Second Circuit’s interpretation earlier this year in Fox News v. TV Eyes that the consumers’ use in Sony was transformative: a use may be fair “if it utilizes technology to achieve the transformative purpose of improving the efficiency of delivering content without unreasonably encroaching on the commercial entitlements of the rights holder.”

Judge Leval found that ReDigi’s use was not transformative because “it provides neither criticism, commentary, nor information” about copyrighted works. Moreover, it did not “deliver the content in a more convenient and usable form to one who has acquired an entitlement to receive the content.” Instead, it just provided “a market for the resale of digital music files, which sales compete with sales of the same recorded music by the rights holder.” Further tilting the first factor against fair use was the commercial nature of ReDigi’s activity.

After cursory treatment of the second and third factors, the nature of the copyright work and the amount and substantiality of the portion used, Judge Leval examined the fourth factor, the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work, in more detail. Judge Leval noted that ReDigi made reproductions for “the purpose of resale in competition with the Plaintiffs’ market for the sale of their sound recordings.” ReDigi sold its copies “to the same consumers whose objective in purchasing was to acquire Plaintiffs’ music.” Judge Leval also distinguished the resale of physical copies from digital copies. “The digital files resold by ReDigi, although used, do not deteriorate the way printed books and physical records deteriorate.” The only difference between the copies sold by Capitol and the copies sold in ReDigi’s secondary market was that ReDigi’s copies were less expensive.

Judge Leval then weighed the four factors together. He found that “even if ReDigi is credited with some faint showing of a transformative purpose, that purpose is overwhelmed by the substantial harm ReDigi inflicts on the value of Plaintiffs’ copyrights through direct competition in the rights holders’ legitimate market, offering consumers a substitute for purchasing from the rights holders.”

At the end of the opinion, Judge Leval considered an argument raised in an amicus brief by copyright law professors that the first sale doctrine “must be read to vindicate purchasers’ ability to alienate digital copyright works…without regard to technological medium.” Judge Leval expressed reluctance to wade into this policy argument. “Courts are poorly equipped to assess the inevitably multifarious economic consequences that would result from such changes of law.” Furthermore, reading section 109(a) to accommodate digital resale “would exceed the proper exercise of the court’s authority.” Here, “Congress dictated the terms of the statutory entitlement.” Section 109(a) clearly “negates a claim of unauthorized distribution in violation of the author’s exclusive rights…but not a claim of unauthorized reproduction.” Accordingly, “if ReDigi and its champions have persuasive arguments in favor of the change of law they advocate, it is Congress they should persuade.

Implications for Libraries

The ReDigi decision requires reevaluation of CDL initiatives. The decision is the most analogous precedent to library sharing of digital files of copyrighted works. To be sure, a library would engage in CDL for noncommercial educational purposes, in contrast to ReDigi’s clearly commercial motivation. Moreover, a library could design its CDL program to make it as different from ReDigi’s as possible. For example, the library might engage in CDL only with respect to out of print scholarly monographs. Nonetheless, libraries cannot ignore the long shadow cast by the decision.

Furthermore, the decision calls into question the theoretical underpinnings of CDL. Specifically, CDL relies on the fair use right to replicate the first sale right in the digital environment. Judge Leval’s decision, however, could be read to suggest that the objectives of the first sale right cannot guide the fair use analysis.

The Library Copyright Alliance (“LCA”) filed an amicus brief in support of ReDigi, where we argued that the similarity between the use ReDigi sought to make and uses authorized by section 109(a) should have tilted the first fair use factor in favor of ReDigi. We noted that in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, the Second Circuit used the rationale for a specific exception—17 U.S.C. § 121, which permits the making of accessible format copies for people who have print disabilities—to support a finding of a valid purpose under the first factor. Likewise, the Copyright Office has repeatedly based fair use conclusions on specific exceptions in the context of a rulemaking under section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 1201. We urged the Second Circuit to recognize that the purpose behind the first sale right favored ReDigi in the first fair use factor analysis.

Unfortunately, Judge Leval did not address this argument. The lack of reference to this argument is somewhat surprising given that it was based on the Second Circuit’s reasoning in the HathiTrust decision, and that the Association of American Publishers filed an amicus brief specifically responding to LCA’s brief. Moreover, fair use was the obvious means of addressing the policy concerns raised by the copyright law professors in their amicus brief. Fair use could achieve the objectives of the first sale doctrine in the digital environment without Congress amending the statute.

In one passage, Judge Leval arguably disagreed with this argument. When responding to the law professors’ suggestion that section 109(a) be interpreted to apply in the digital context, Judge Leval stated “the copyright statute is a patchwork, sometimes varying from clause to clause, as between provisions for which Congress has taken control, dictating both policy and the details of its execution, and provisions in which Congress approximatively summarized common law developments, implicitly leaving further such developments to the courts. The paradigm of the latter category is § 107 on fair use.” This could be interpreted to imply that specific exceptions should not influence the first factor analysis—that specific exceptions and fair use should each stick to their own lanes.

On the other hand, by not rejecting it, Judge Leval arguably allowed the argument to live to fight another day. Additionally, Judge Leval’s copyright patchwork argument really doesn’t make much sense. The first sale right is a judge-made doctrine which was codified in section 109(a), just as the fair use right is a judge-made doctrine which was codified in section 107. Thus, it is completely appropriate for a court to consider the principles underlying the first sale right when applying the fair use right.

The status of the argument is particularly significant for libraries interested in engaging in CDL. CDL relies heavily on the notion that fair use enables libraries to replicate the first sale right in a digital context. In their White Paper on Controlled Digital Lending of Library Books, David Hansen and Kyle Courtney state,

The core concept with CDL is that it closely mimics the economic transaction that Congress has already provided for through the first sale doctrine under Section 109. The purpose of the use with CDL is to fulfill the statutory objectives and balance of rights already identified by Congress in Section 109, effectuating that balance considering a new technological use not contemplated at the time Section 109 was enacted. The crux of the proposition is that the purpose and intent of Section 109 should positively influence the “purpose and character” assessment in the fair use analysis.

This, of course, is the same theory LCA articulated in its amicus brief. LCA still believes this theory is correct, and will continue believing in its correctness unless and until the Supreme Court explicitly rejects it. However, Judge Leval’s failure to even acknowledge the theory when he had the opportunity to do so should cause libraries to reevaluate their CDL initiatives. In particular, they need to consider whether their CDL programs are likely to pass muster under a more traditional fair use analysis that does not rely on section 109 exercising a positive influence on the first factor.

Supreme Court denies Authors Guild Petition for Certiorari

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.

Second Circuit Affirms Fair Use in Google Books Case

*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.

Background

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.”

Furthermore,

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.

Derivative Works

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.

Exposure/Security Risks

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.

Conclusion

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.

House of Representatives Passes USA FREEDOM Act; Senate To Act Quickly

On Wednesday, May 13, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of the USA FREEDOM Act, legislation that bans bulk collection under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act as well as other authorities, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) pen/trap statute and national security letters (NSL) by an overwhelming majority of 338 to 88. ARL is pleased that the House of Representatives has passed stronger reform than its 2014 version and considers this development a step forward in surveillance reform.

Since 2006, the National Security Agency (NSA) has engaged in the practice of bulk collection of phone records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, also known as the “library records” or “business records” provision. The 2015 USA FREEDOM Act, backed by the White House, specifically addresses this issue and prohibits bulk collection, only permitting limited surveillance orders that focus on a specific selection term. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit also addressed this issue recently, ruling that the NSA’s practice of bulk collection exceeded the authority under Section 215 and therefore unlawful.

The 2015 version of the USA FREEDOM Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives also includes several amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and transparency measures, representing an improvement over the version passed during the last Congress. The bill will now go to the Senate and must be considered quickly, given the upcoming expiration date of certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act, including Section 215.

While the version passed today by the House of Representatives includes better reforms to surveillance practices than in the 2014 bill, the USA FREEDOM Act is just one step forward in a series of necessary reforms. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s recent unanimous decision that the NSA’s bulk collection practices exceeded the scope of authority granted under Section 215 demonstrates the egregiousness of the NSA’s interpretation of its authority and the willingness of FISC to approve such broad application of the law. Congress should take care to ensure that provisions under USA FREEDOM Act are not similarly interpreted in an overly-broad manner by the NSA to infringe on the privacy rights of those in the United States. ARL looks forward to continuing to work with Congress to ensure that privacy rights are respected and hopes that additional reforms will be made.

End of the Authors Guild v. HathiTrust Saga, A Victory for Fair Use

For the past several years, the HathiTrust and five of its member universities have been engaged in litigation after being sued by the Authors Guild. On January 6, 2015, the parties entered a settlement on the sole issue remaining before the district court, ending the litigation in a victory for HathiTrust and fair use.

In its litigation, the Authors Guild alleged that HathiTrust Digital Library’s (HDL) digitization of works for the purposes of use in a full-text search database, providing access to the print disabled, and preservation, as well as the Orphan Works Project developed by the University of Michigan, constituted copyright infringement. The Orphan Works Project was abandoned and not considered ripe for adjudication, while the other issues advanced. The district court found in favor of HDL’s motions for summary judgment on the remaining three issues.

In June 2014, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit strongly affirmed fair use, finding that HathiTrust Digital Library’s creation of a full-text search database and providing access to the print disabled constituted fair use. On the issue of preservation, the Second Circuit remanded back to the district court – without determining the merits of whether such preservation constituted fair use – to determine whether the plaintiffs had standing to bring the claim. In its press release on the opinion, the Library Copyright Alliance applauded the decision noting that the

 Second Circuit rightly concluded that HDL’s activities are protected by fair use, ensuring the ‘safety valve’ of fair use is well-functioning and providing meaningful balance through limitations on the copyright holder’s rights. Fair use has long been relied upon to provide important protections for the public and promote new and transformative uses of copyrighted works, such as those facilitated by HDL.

Summaries and analysis of the Second Circuit’s opinion available here and here.

On January 6, 2015, the Authors Guild and HathiTrust settled the preservation issue, with the defendant libraries stipulating that they have complied with Section 108(c) of the Copyright Act and have only made replacement copies where the original was damaged, deteriorating, lost or stolen, and that an unused replacement could not be obtained at a fair price. The defendant libraries further agreed that for a period of five years, if the libraries do not comply with the stipulation, it will notify the Authors Guild, “which, although not a Remaining Plaintiff in this Action, will accept notice.”

While an appeal to the Supreme Court would still be possible, it appears from a release issued by the Authors Guild today that the Guild will not pursue this path. The Authors Guild begins its release noting that the settlement “brought to an end the Guild’s copyright infringement lawsuit against the group of research libraries known as the HathiTrust.”

Ultimately, the Authors Guild v. HathiTrust saga ended in a strong victory for fair use as the Second Circuit opinion will now stand. The library community applauded this opinion when it was released. The opinion had a number of notable implications. It strongly affirmed the use of mass digitization for purposes of facilitating fair uses (such as creation of a full-text search database or access for the print disabled). The Second Circuit also endorsed a “functional transformation” approach in conducting its fair use analysis, finding that a use is transformative if the works is used for a significantly different purpose than its original market purpose. Additionally, the Second Circuit, in a quick footnote, rejected the Authors Guild’s repeated claims that Section 108 of the Copyright Act restricts fair use.

Furthermore, while the parties settled the issue of preservation for purposes of use as a replacement copy, essentially noting that the parties will comply with Section 108(c) of the Copyright Act, practically speaking, as noted by Jonathan Band’s analysis, What Does the HathiTrust Decision Mean for Libraries?, libraries engaged in the activities of HathiTrust can make digital copies:

Because providing full-text search capability justifies the creation and maintenance of a database of text files, a library could create and maintain a database of text files if the library provided full-text search capability of those text files. Likewise, because access to the print disabled justifies the creation and maintenance of a database of image files, a library could create and maintain a database of image files if the library provided the print disabled with access to those image files. Additionally, the library could create appropriate backup copies of these databases.

 

[…]

 

In short, the HathiTrust decision indicates that a library could make digital copies of all the analog works in its collection, and store those copies as text and image files, if the library provided full text-search capability and full-text access to the disabled.

HathiTrust’s press release on the resolution of the litigation is available here.

Library Copyright Alliance files amici brief in Authors Guild v. Google

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.