Copyright/Intellectual Property

Harvard Loses Copyright Infringment Case Against Against Steve Elmo

25 May 2016

From Free Nampeyo:

The first entry in the Free Nampeyo blog discussed Harvard’s copyright infringement claims against Steve Elmore’s book In Search of Nampeyo: The Early Years 1875 – 1892.

. . . .

The subject of Harvard’s complaint was whether color illustrations of designs on old Hopi pottery held in the Keam collection at Harvard’s Peabody Museum violated the copyright to their black and white photographs of this pottery.  Mr. Elmore filed a motion for partial summary judgement against this claim, asking the judge to consider the law and the facts and make a ruling.  Harvard also filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgement concerning a photograph of a Kayenta or Tusayan jar that appeared on its website and also in Mr. Elmore’s book.  Both claims were decided by Judge Robert C. Brack of the United States District Court in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Judge Brack’s ruling “Grants Defendant’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgement (Doc.92); and Denies Plaintiff’s Cross-Motion for Partial Summary Judgement that Elmore is liable for Copyright Infringement (Doc. 109). ”

. . . .

Determining whether copyright infringement has occurred can be a complex matter.  The decision depends on two basic factors.  The first is whether the underlying work is copyrightable at all and, if so, which elements of the work are subject to copyright.  The second is whether the work accused of infringing on the protected aspects of the underlying work in fact does infringe.

. . . .

Below is the photograph of the Kayenta or Tusayan jar that was the subject of Harvard’s cross-motion for partial summary judgement.  Judge Brack’s Opinion is that this is not a copyrightable photograph.

a1

Quoting from the Compendium of U. S. Copyright Practices, third edition “as with all copyrighted works, a photograph must have a sufficient amount of creative expression to be eligible for registration”.  A photograph should not be registered “if it is clear the the photographer merely used the camera to copy the source work without adding any creative expression to the photo”.   Judge Brack argues that this photograph is just such a case.  It was not taken as a study in photography or crafted by the photographer with carefully chosen lighting and background, but rather was a “conservation image” taken as part of a “condition assessment” while the jar rested on a surface with a bunch of other stuff visible behind it.

The second part of the Opinion is more complex.  It involves 41 illustrations created from designs visible in the black and white photographs of pottery that were published in the book Historic Hopi Ceramics (HHC). Below is a comparison of two of the black and white photographs and the illustrations created from them.

a1

First Judge Brack determined that, unlike the photograph of the Tusayan or Kayenta jar discussed above that is not copyrightable, the black and white photographs in HHC show “a minimal degree of creativity–if only a humble spark”.  Decisions were made to photograph each ceramic in the same way and to strip the backgrounds from each of the individual photographs “to emphasize the impact of the collection as a whole rather than the intricacies of each individual piece.”  However, just because a photograph is copyrightable does not mean that “every element of the work is protected….the less original the plaintiff’s work, the more the defendant must copy to infringe on the plaintiff’s copyright.”

Importantly. Judge Brack finds that the Native American designs on the pottery and the form of the pottery are not copyrightable elements of Harvard’s photographs: “Here the copyright of Historic Hopi Ceramics does not protect against copying the most prominent features in the works: the intricate pottery designs and forms achieved by a Hopi potter, perhaps Nampeyo.” (emphasis added).

Judge Brack notes that the protection of the HHC photographs is “incredibly limited” and only a verbatim copy would violate a copyright with such a small amount of creative input from the photographer.  He observes that Mr. Elmore’s illustrations highlight the designs, which are non-copyrightable elements, and switch the emphasis from the condition of the pots as a whole collection to these design elements.  The illustrations use line art and are in color.  They clean up and bring out elements of the designs, while eliminating aspects of the pottery itself, such as fire clouds.  Judge Brack writes: “Considering only the  protected elements in the Historic Hopi Ceramics photographs and Mr. Elmore’s images, reasonable minds could not find substantial similarity between the two.”

He also notes that Mr. Elmore picked individual ceramics to use in his illustrations and did his own arrangements of them, in order to emphasize comparison of the designs.  Mr. Elmore’s use of these ceramics to establish a novel thesis would give his work protection under the fair use doctrine.

Link to the rest at Free Nampeyo

PG says most judges see very few copyright infringement cases and sometimes the way such cases are handled feels a little loose. In this matter, however, in PG’s effervescently humble opinion, the judge seems to be doing a good job.

PG hopes that Harvard becomes increasingly humiliated if it continues this bizarre litigation. It was a terrible idea to bring the suit in the first place and, having so thoroughly lost the first round, the Peabody Museum should quit misspending its endowment by trying to interfere with Mr. Elmo’s labor of love in spreading knowledge of a little-known Hopi artist to a wider audience.

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Paramount’s Lawsuit Against Axanar Productions Star Trek Fan Film is ‘Going Away’

22 May 2016

From i09:

At last night’s Star Trek fan event, the latest trailer for Star Trek Beyond wasn’t the only newsworthy event: J.J. Abrams announced that Paramount Pictures’ lawsuit against Axanar Productions was “going away.”

io9 was at the fan event, where Abrams noted that Star Trek Beyond’s director, Justin Lin, was outraged at the legal situation that had arisen:

“A few months back there was a fan film, Axonar, that was getting made and there was this lawsuit that happened between the studio and these fans and Justin, I’ll tell the story because he probably wouldn’t, was sort of outraged by this as a long time fan. We started talking about it and realized this was not an appropriate way to deal with the fans.

The fans should be celebrating this thing. Fans of Star Trek are part of this world. So he went to the studio and pushed them to stop this lawsuit and now, within the next few weeks, it will be announced this is going away, and that fans would be able to continue working on their project”

The fan film has been embroiled in legal issues since December when CBS sued it for “direct, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement.” In April, the Language Creation Society filed an amicus brief in the case, making the argument that the Klingon language isn’t copyrightable.

. . . .

Axanar released a statement regarding the news:

While we’re grateful to receive the public support of JJ Abrams and Justin Lin, as the lawsuit remains pending, we want to make sure we go through all the proper steps to make sure all matters are settled with CBS and Paramount. Our goal from the beginning of this legal matter has been to address the concerns of the plaintiffs in a way that still allows us to tell the story of AXANAR and meets the expectations of the over 10,000 fans who financially supported our project.

There is still a lot of work to do, but receiving this kind of public support helps immensely.

Link to the rest at i09 and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Be under no illusion: Malcolm Turnbull wants to destroy Australian literature

20 May 2016

From The Guardian:

It may seem at the moment that the only thing that will save the Australian book industry is moving every publisher and writer into Christopher Pyne’s electorate, and making them all wear hi-vis jackets and safety helmets.

For we have in recent weeks discovered that the Turnbull government is considering proposals for a writer to not have any rights in their work 15 to 25 years after it’s first published. So Mem Fox has no rights in Possum Magic. Stephanie Alexander has no rights in A Cook’s Companion. Elizabeth Harrower has no rights in The Watch Tower. John Coetzee has no rights in his Booker winning Life and Times of Michael K. Nor Peter Carey to The Kelly Gang, nor Tim Winton to Cloudstreet. Anyone can make money from these books except the one who wrote it.

The Abbott and now Turnbull governments’ record drips with a contempt for writers and writing that leaves me in despair. They want to thieve our past work, and, by ending parallel importation restrictions and territorial copyright, destroy any future for Australian writers.

That contempt has been made concrete in the report of the Orwellian titled Productivity Commission. The Productivity Commission doesn’t dare call books books. Instead they are called – in a flourish not unworthy of Don de Lillo –cultural externalities.

In their perverted world view, the book industry’s very success is a key argument in their need to destroy the book industry, and this determination to destroy an industry is revealed in their reports as the real aim of these proposals.

Just one highly revealing quote from the Productivity Commission:

The expansion of the books production industries over recent decades has attracted and held productive resources, notably skilled labour and capital, that have thereby been unavailable for use in other industries. The upshot will have been reduced growth in employment and output in other parts of the economy.”

Replace the clumsy phrase “book production industries” with the word “kulak”, and you would have ideological cant worthy of Stalin.

. . . .

Where is prime minister Turnbull’s much vaunted innovative economy in this decision? Where exactly, prime minister, are the jobs and innovation in destroying jobs and innovation? We employ people, some 25,000 by last count. We make billions, we pay tax, we make things and we sell them here and we sell them around the world. And all at no cost to the taxpayer. And now prime minister Turnbull would destroy it all.

We are not a subsidised industry. The fossil fuel industry gets $18bn of subsidies. A single South Australian submarine worker gets $17.9m. And writers? The total direct subsidy for all Australian writers is just $2.4m. That’s it. And that’s all.

. . . .

This is a speech given to the Australian Book Industry Awards in Sydney on 19 May

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Celine for the tip.

PG is not at all familiar with Australian politics, so many nuances underlying this article will be imperceptible to him.

In the US, the foundation for copyright law is found in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution which grants congress the power:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

The “limited Times” part of copyright law has bounced all over the place.

The Copyright Act of 1790 set the duration of copyright protection as a term of 14 years from the recording of the copyright registration, with the right to renew for one additional 14 year term should the copyright holder still be alive. This structure mirrored the provisions of the Statute of Anne in Britain.

Today, the duration of copyright protection is for the life of the creator plus 70 years in the US.

As far as changes in the Australian law are concerned, Australia is a signatory to the The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works which requires that copyright protection last for at least 50 years after the author’s death for any work except for photographic and cinematographic works.

PG is not certain whether The Berne Convention is a bulwark or a speed bump for the supposed intention of the Australian government to substantially reduce the term of Australian copyrights.

Why is Harvard Claiming Copyright to Native American Designs?

11 May 2016

PG previously created a post on this topic.

A blog, Free Nampeyo, devoted to the dispute between Harvard University’s Peabody Museum and author/Hopi pottery expert Steve Elmore has been created. The following is excerpted from that blog.

From Free Nampeyo:

Steve Elmore is an Indian Trader and owner of Steve Elmore Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has been studying Hopi pottery for over twenty years and works closely with contemporary Hopi potters. Events were set in motion when Steven LeBlanc, then Director of Collections at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University asked Mr. Elmore to write a book for the Peabody Museum Press on his discovery that many of the ceramics in their Keam collection were the work of the great Hopi potter Nampeyo, and not a random assortment of pottery made by hundreds of different potters, as previously thought.

Steve wrote the book and submitted it, eventually receiving three reviews, which he was asked to respond to. He was then asked by the press to do a major revision of the book for the more scholarly “Papers” series, rather than the “Collections” series he had originally written for. Six months later, he submitted this second version. The manuscript was rejected. A Formal Notification letter from the board returned to him “all rights” in all versions of the manuscript. The letter recommended that he publish elsewhere and made some suggestions as to other publishing venues.

Relying on this letter, and double checking with several intellectual property attorneys, Steve decided to self publish the book, as it had already been through many reviews and was essentially finished. He published In Search of Nampeyo: The Early Years 1875 – 1892 in 2015. In Search of Nampeyo has won four national book awards, including awards for best art book and best interior design. It has received many positive reviews.

However, Harvard was displeased and sued him for breach of contract, copyright infringement, and false designation. Steve countersued on a number of charges including bad faith, interference with business, and conspiracy to steal intellectual property. Right now, the book is under a temporary injunction as Harvard has persuaded a judge that the book has caused them “irreparable harm”.

. . . .

The rest of this post will look into the copyright issues that are raised by Harvard’s lawsuit.

. . . .

The Keam collection was purchased by Mary Hemenway in 1892 and after she died, donated to Harvard in 1894. It was unpacked about 85 years later, and In 1980 Harvard published a book called Historic Hopi Ceramics (HHC) containing simple black and white photographs of the ceramics; it is a catalog of the collection. In the manuscript that Steve submitted to Harvard were some photos cut from HHC which he intended as place holders for future photography. After the manuscript was rejected, he hired a designer to do three color, hand drawn, illustrations of the designs on these pieces of pottery and included these in his book. These illustrations are the subject of Harvard’s copyright infringement suit. Harvard did not make any of the pottery and all these pieces of pottery were made before 1892 when the collection was purchased, so all would be considered in the public domain. Harvard’s argument is that since they photographed the pottery, no one can make copies of the designs depicted in their photographs.

. . . .

In Hopi culture, designs are passed down in families. Nampeyo taught her daughters to make pots and passed her designs to them and these designs have now been passed down and are in use by the fourth and fifth generations. Nampeyo family potters consider the designs to belong to them and/or to their culture. Despite Harvard’s statements to the contrary, if the court rules in their favor, Harvard would in fact own not just the copyright to their photographs, but to the designs themselves.

Steve did not use their photographs, nor did he make exact copies of their photographs. The illustrations leave out all details of the pottery itself such as shadows, chips, cracks, uneven paint and slip, and fire clouds. They also idealize the design, adding elements not visible in the photographs. It is the designs that are the subject of the text and shown in the illustrations. While it is true that the designer did use the photographs from HHC to create his designs, he also used additional sources in order to see the details of the designs and colors.

. . . .

However, the fact that a Hopi pot was included in the photograph certainly does not give the photographer ownership of the design on that pot. Court decisions have often relied on the technique of first filtering out public domain portions of the photograph, and judging copyright claims on the basis of the remaining elements. On the other end of the spectrum is a verbatim copy. If Harvard’s own photograph was simply reproduced in Steve’s book, this might be considered a copyright violation.

I say might be considered a copyright violation because the issue of fair use must be considered. Since Mr. Elmore picked out a small number of pots from the entire Keam collection to use in a scholarly argument establishing Nampeyo as the artist who made these pots, the use he made of HHC should be considered transformative of the original work and serving the purpose that the fair use doctrine was established for, furthering the development and presentation of new knowledge. He did not use the “heart” of HHC, which is simply a catalog and he did not decrease the value of the original book. In fact HHC has increased in value since Steve published In Search of Nampeyo.

Link to the rest at Free Nampeyo and thanks to Linda for the tip.

PG is reminded of a quote attributed to Wallace Sayre, “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.”

Cheerleading Uniform Copyright Clash Gets U.S. High Court Review

2 May 2016

From Bloomberg:

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to use a clash between rival makers of cheerleading outfits to clarify the scope of federal copyright protection for pictures and graphic designs.

The justices on Monday said they will hear an appeal from Star Athletica LLC, which is seeking to fend off a lawsuit by Varsity Brands LLC, the world’s largest cheerleading-apparel company. Varsity says Star copied five proprietary designs.

. . . .

Under federal law, a design can be copyrighted if it is separable from a product’s utilitarian aspects. In the cheerleading dispute, a Cincinnati-based federal appeals court said Varsity’s lines, zigzags and braids were conceptually separate from the uniforms’ functional attributes, making the designs eligible for copyright protection.

Link to the rest at Bloomberg

‘Star Trek’ Lawsuit: The Debate Over Klingon Language Heats Up

29 April 2016

From The Hollywood Reporter:

When Paramount and CBS ended last year with a lawsuit over a crowdfunded Star Trek fan film titled Axanar, the two studios probably had no idea that they were about to get mired in an esoteric legal debate about the protectability of the Klingon language. But that’s exactly what’s happened, and with the language of digital coding hanging in the background, a California federal judge’s forthcoming decision could hold significance — so large, in fact, that this otherwise run-of-the-mill copyright action has now drawn an amicus brief from a language society that quotes a Klingon proverb translated as “we succeed together in a greater whole.”

To review, after the Star Trek rights holders filed their complaint, the defendant production company demanded particulars of the franchise’s copyrighted elements. In response, Paramount and CBS listed a lot, but what drew most attention was claimed entitlement to the Klingon language. The defendant then reached back to a 19th century Supreme Court opinion for the proposition that Klingon is not copyrightable as a useful system.

On April 11, that drew an entertaining response from the flummoxed plaintiffs.

“This argument is absurd since a language is only useful if it can be used to communicate with people, and there are no Klingons with whom to communicate,” stated a plaintiffs’ brief authored by David Grossman at Loeb & Loeb. “The Klingon language is wholly fictitious, original and copyrightable, and Defendants’ incorporation of that language in their works will be part of the Court’s eventual substantial similarity analysis. Defendants’ use of the Klingon language in their works is simply further evidence of their infringement of Plaintiffs’ characters, since speaking this fictitious language is an aspect of their characters.”

Before U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner gets a chance to rule on a motion to dismiss, he’s now being asked permission to review a friend-of-the-court brief from the Language Creation Society.

The brief, authored by Marc Randazza, begins with background that the Klingon language was invented in 1984 by Marc Okrand for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

“Before that, when actors played Klingons in Star Trek television programs or movies, they simply uttered guttural sounds or spoke in English (Federation Standard),” writes Randazza. “Given that Paramount Pictures commissioned the creation of some of the language, it is understandable that Paramount might feel some sense of ownership over the creation. But, feeling ownership and having ownership are not the same thing. The language has taken on a life of its own. Thousands of people began studying it, building upon it, and using it to communicate among themselves.”

. . . .

Now, with 250,000 copies of a Klingon dictionary said to have been sold, Klingon language certification programs being offered, the Microsoft search engine Bing presenting English-to-Klingon translations, one Swedish couple performing their marriage vows in Klingon, foreign governments providing official statements in Klingon and so on, the Language Creation Society is holding up Klingon as having freed the “bounds of its textual chains.”

Ultimately, the amicus brief comes back to the theory that Klingon is not copyrightable.

“What is a language other than a procedure, process, or system for communication?” asks the society. “What is a language’s vocabulary but a collection of words? The vocabulary and grammar rules of a language provide instructions for a speaker to articulate thoughts and ideas. One cannot disregard grammatical rules and still be intelligible, and creating one’s own vocabulary only worked well for the Bard. Vocabulary and grammar are no more protectable than the bookkeeping system in Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99, 101 (1879).”

Link to the rest at The Hollywood Reporter and thanks to Antares for the tip.

Parts of the amicus brief are written in Klingon.

Prince’s Entire Estate, Including IP Rights at Stake Following his Death

25 April 2016

From The Fashion Law:

Late music icon Prince was known in life as fiercely determined to protect his intellectual property, but how well others might profit from his legacy hinges on how astute he was about arranging for control of his music after death. Prince, 57, who died on Thursday at his home and studio compound in Minnesota, is one of relatively few recording artists believed to have possessed ownership of his master recordings and much of his own music publishing.

“Ownership of his catalog will follow his estate,” veteran Los Angeles-based entertainment lawyer Jay Cooper said on Thursday. “Ownership of the masters will go to whoever inherits it from his estate.” At stake is music featured on more than 30 albums that have sold over 36 million copies in the United State alone since 1978, plus hundreds of songs that are reported to remain unreleased in his vaults.

The key unanswered question about the fate of Prince’s intellectual property is whether the recording artist had a valid will or estate plan in place at the time of his death, lawyers said. Twice divorced with no surviving children, he apparently lacked any immediately identifiable heirs.

“I hope for his sake that he had an estate plan, especially with no heirs,” attorney Lee Phillips, who represented Prince during the singer’s 20s when he made his first blockbuster album, “Purple Rain,” was quoted as telling The Hollywood Reporter.

. . . .

Prince was almost as well known for an unyielding defense of his artistic rights as he was for his music. So assertive was he in maintaining creative control that during a bitter contract battle with Warner Bros. in the 1990s, he famously changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol and scrawled the word “slave” on his forehead in performances.

The dispute centered at least in part on Prince’s desire to release his music more frequently than the label was willing. Prince found it “abhorrent” that he would “use that type of intellectual creativity and pour everything into it and give to people only to have somebody else own it at the end of the day,” said Owen Husney, the star’s first manager, told Reuters TV in an interview.

Link to the rest at The Fashion Law

When Copyright Protections Are Weakened: Canada’s Warning for Australia

22 April 2016

From Publishing Perspectives:

What Copyright Clearance Center’s (CCC) Roy Kaufman characterizes as “a strong push by US technology giants to relax copyright laws” can “water down the rights of thousands of Australians who create stories and education material.” And he points to Canada as an example of the kind of damage Australia is courting.

. . . .

In 2012, Canada amended its Copyright Act to add the word “education” to the list of exceptions that allow the use of material without seeking permission from, or paying, the copyright owner.

Until that year, Canadian educational institutions paid royalties to creators and publishers for copying content, either directly, or through a local collecting society called Access Copyright. This is similar to procedures in Australia, where the education systems pay license fees to an organization called Copyright Agency, allowing use of a wide range of education material.  The Copyright Agency then distributes those fees to the owners of copyright: publishers, authors and artists. In that way, it ensures compensating publishers and education authors, and underwriting production of new works.

. . . .

The effect of the change on Canada’s publishing industry has been direct.

The Access Copyright collecting society’s Executive Director, Roanie Levy, says that educators believe they can now take what used to be paid for under a collective licence and use that content free—and they’re doing that. With an estimated loss of $50 million a year in royalty payments to content producers — plus an even more insidious but hard-to-quantify disincentive to buying books — an important component of Canadian culture is suffering.

. . . .

John Degan, Executive Director of the Writers Union of Canada puts it this way for us: “Going by the 10-percent interpretation” used by educational institutions, “they could take one story out of each book, copy it free, and turn it into a course pack for ‘Canadian Short Stories 101’. Alice Munro wouldn’t have to be told about it, and neither she nor her publisher would see any money for it.”

In other words, Munro would not only cease to receive royalties for copying, but sales of her books would decline, too. For Munro this would be unfortunate, but the consequences of a similar situation for new Canadian authors would be far worse.

. . . .

Access Copyright’s Levy tells us that a systematic use of content without compensation has cost small- to medium-sized publishers 20 percent of their revenues. That means that their profit margins, which already were very slim, are going away.

What’s more, diversity is also being curtailed: the creation of Canadian books by Canadian authors on the country’s history, politics, literature and more is disappearing, paving the way for international publishing firms to saturate Canada with non-Canadian books.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG would be interested on the perspective of Canadian visitors to TPV on this subject. Has the change in Canadian copyright law cost authors money?

In the US, Section § 107 of the Copyright Act sets forth the manner in which individuals or organizations may use portions of a copyrighted work without the consent of the copyright holder under the Fair Use doctrine. Here’s more information on Fair Use if you can’t restrain your enthusiasm for the concept.

The Copyright Clearance Center makes its money by processing copyright permissions to use part or all of copyrighted works. It provides a useful service as a clearing house where someone who wants to use a wide range of copyrighted material can go to pay a fee and legally use the copyrighted material without hunting down the author or publisher. Copyright owners and publishers appoint the CCC as their representative to provide permission to use their copyrighted material. Here’s a link to the CCC.

However the CCC has an interest in broader copyright protection because that means more people and organizations will be paying fees to CCC for use of protected materials. PG is interested to know whether the change in Canadian law has caused problems for authors.

 

Government gives illustrated publishers July deadline

22 April 2016

From The Bookseller:

The government has given publishers just three months to comply with new legislation which industry figures have warned threatens to decimate illustrated publishing, refusing requests for a longer transition period.

The Publishers Association has said it is “very concerned” by the decision.

The legal changes are extending the length of protection of 2D representations of “design objects” from 25 to 70 years to bring design law into step with copyright law. This means that publishers of books containing mere images of such objects – for example, a photo of a chair – must either pay (in many cases in addition to fees for copyright) to licence design rights or otherwise get permission from the design rights holder; otherwise, the inclusion of the photo is no longer legal for publication. The design object must be over 70 years old to be exempt.

The government has refused to differentiate between the treatment of 2D images in publications from those of 2D design objects themselves: a decision that will dismay illustrated publishers. They now face the unpalatable prospect of shelving publications in progress and pulping stock in order to be compliant with the legislation by 28th July, whenthe amendment will come into force.

The repercussions of this legislation are particlarly far reaching for arts and illustrated publishers whose books may contain hundreds of such images in any given tome. This, according to publishers in the space, could make them too expensive to produce at all.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Supreme Court rejects challenge to Google book-scanning project

18 April 2016

From Reuters:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge by a group of authors who contend that Google’s massive effort to scan millions of books for an online library violates copyright law.

The Authors Guild and several individual writers have argued that the project, known as Google Books, illegally deprives them of revenue. The high court left in place an October 2015 ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in favor of Google.

A unanimous three-judge appeals court panel said the case “tests the boundaries of fair use,” but found Google’s practices were ultimately allowed under the law.

. . . .

Several prominent writers, including novelist and poet Margaret Atwood and lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim, signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief backing the Authors Guild.

The authors sued Google, whose parent company is Alphabet Inc, in 2005, a year after the project was launched. A lower court dismissed the litigation in 2013, prompting the authors’ appeal.

Google argued that the effort would actually boost book sales by making it easier for readers to find works, while introducing them to books they might not otherwise have seen.

The company made digital copies of more than 20 million books, according to court papers. Some publishers agreed to allow Google to copy their works.

Google Books allows users to search the content of the books and displays excerpts that show the relevant search results. Google says in court papers the service “gives readers a dramatically new way to find books of interest” and lets people know where they can buy them. Users cannot read “any substantial portion of any book,” Google said.

Link to the rest at Reuters and thanks to Dave for the tip.

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