Creators Take it on the Chin; Federal Court Rules Against Author's Guild - PPA Today
Creators Take it on the Chin; Federal Court Rules Against Author's Guild
An eight-year battle on behalf of creators has ended badly. Federal Circuit Court Judge Dennis Chin ruled last week that the mass digitization of library books "provides significant public benefits" and "advances the progress of the arts and sciences." This comes as a shock to the creative world, and apparently opens the flood gates on the mass digitization of creative works, with or without the creator's permission.
"To be honest, it is just shocking to everyone involved in the protection of copyright," commented PPA's CEO David Trust. "Judge Chin's opinion is short-sighted. Creators cannot do what they do best--create--if they are not compensated for it. And when creators no longer create, the public suffers."
The Author's Guild filed suit against Google in 2005 in response to The Google Book Project. The project, launched in 2004, was designed to create a digital collection of printed texts that would be searchable online. Google began sourcing books and other printed media from libraries and universities and later "partnered" with publishers. At no time were the individual authors consulted nor was their permission to make reproductions requested. This was the basis for the suit.
"We disagree with and are disappointed by the court's decision today," Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken said. "Google made unauthorized digital editions of nearly all of the world's valuable copyright-protected literature and profits from displaying those works. In our view, such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of fair use defense."
The Author's Guild plans to appeal.
What this means for photographers:
While the case addressed book scanning it was not inclusive of all copyrighted content. The photographs included to enhance the written text were only covered by this suit if the photographer was also the author. For this reason, PPA joined fellow visual arts organizations and a few individual creators, to mount its own suit in May 2010 seeking remedies for the digitization of the visual content within the books.
"This ruling is an example of how complex the copyright landscape has become in this digital age," said Trust. "Legal precedents like this make it harder for photographers to defend their rights on a smaller scale. Defending our members' rights has always been a challenge. This ruling makes it a little more difficult."
PPA's suit was filed in this very same court district and is before the same judge. We are currently exploring the ramifications of the decision on our case and will bring you additional news in upcoming weeks.