May 31 (Reuters) - Thousands of authors can sue Google Inc
in a class-action lawsuit over its plan to create the world's
largest digital book library, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.
U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin in Manhattan also rejected
Google's bid to dismiss claims by The Authors Guild and several
groups representing photographers and graphic artists, which
would have forced their members to sue individually.
Plaintiffs in the seven-year-old case have complained that
Google's plan for the library, which would include millions of
out-of-print works, amounted to "massive copyright
The case arose from Google's 2004 agreement with several big
research libraries to digitally copy books and other writings
for its Google Books website, with a goal of helping researchers
and the general public locate the materials.
Google has since scanned more than 12 million books, but
planned to provide only snippets online, saying this activity
constituted "fair use" under U.S. copyright law.
Chin said it would be more efficient for authors to sue as a
group, rather than risk disparate results and the
"exponentially" higher costs of individual lawsuits.
He also said it would be unjust to force members of The
Authors Guild, the American Society of Media Photographers and
other groups to sue individually "given the sweeping and
undiscriminating nature of Google's unauthorized copying."
The litigation combines lawsuits against Mountain View,
California-based Google in 2005 on behalf of authors, and in
2010 on behalf of photographers and graphic artists.
A Google spokeswoman said in an emailed statement: "As we've
said all along, we are confident that Google Books is fully
compliant with copyright law."
Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to
requests for comment.
In March 2011, Chin cited antitrust and copyright concerns
in rejecting a proposed comprehensive $125 million settlement,
saying it went "too far" in letting Google effectively conduct
"wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission."
Chin was elevated in 2010 to the federal appeals court in
New York, but kept jurisdiction over the Google case, which he
had begun overseeing as a trial judge.
The cases are:
The Authors Guild et al v. Google Inc, U.S. District Court,
Southern District of New York, No. 05-08136
For The Authors Guild: Michael J. Boni of Boni & Zack
For Google: David Silbert of Keker & Van Nest
American Society of Media Photographers et al v. Google Inc
in the same court, No. 10-02977
For American Society of Media Photographers: James McGuire
of Mishcon de Reya
For Google: Daralyn Durie of Durie Tangri
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel)
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