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Authors Take Google Books Fight to SCOTUS

(CN) - A recent court victories affirming that Google Books qualifies as fair use "threatens to undermine protection of copyrighted works in the digital age to an extraordinary extent," the Authors Guild told the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a petition filed on New Year's Eve, the guild's attorney Paul Smith of the Washington-based firm Jenner & Block is hoping to stretch the litigation into its 11th year.

"The copyright laws are intended to promote new expression, not just the consumption of creative works," he wrote in a 36-page petition.

Within a year of Google Books' launch in late 2004, the guild filed a class action in Federal Court hoping the snuff the Silicon Valley giant's plans to digitize 15 million volumes within a decade. Google Books has since smoked past that goal with nearly 25 million manuscripts on the Internet, and it won multiple rulings affirming its business model.

At the trial court level, then-District Judge Denny Chin praised its "significant public benefits" in 2013.

"It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders," he wrote. "It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books. It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books."

Chin later accepted a nomination to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, where three of his colleagues affirmed his decision late last year.

"Google's making of a digital copy to provide a search function is a transformative use, which augments public knowledge by making available information about plaintiffs' books without providing the public with a substantial substitute for matter protected by the plaintiffs' copyright interests in the original works or derivatives of them," Judge Pierre Leval wrote for the court on Oct. 16.

Urging the nation's highest court to reverse these decisions, the guild focused on Google's profit motive.

"Whatever can be said about the scope of the fair-use doctrine, surely it cannot be that using copyrighted works without authorization as a form of currency to maximize corporate profits is a fair use," the petition states.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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