The key quote from today’s decision to remand Authors Guild v. Google back to the district court is:
Putting aside the merits of Google’s claim that plaintiffs are not representative of the certified class—an argument which, in our view, may carry some force—we believe that the resolution of Google’s fair use defense in the first instance will necessarily inform and perhaps moot our analysis of many class certification issues, including those regarding the commonality of plaintiffs’ injuries, the typicality of their claims, and the predominance of common questions of law or fact, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(2), (3), (b)(3).
The court is not giving that much away, but my prediction is that the Second Circuit is taking Google’s class certification arguments and their fair use defense very seriously. Judges like to be efficient. If they can dispose of this case on the grounds that library digitization + search is fair use, there is no class. A few authors may have a case about snippets that were too long (not a good case, but a case) but the idea of a class in the millions evaporates if the basic non-expressive uses are held to be fair use.
Another judge in the Southern District of New York has already made this ruling in the companion case of Authors Guild v, Hathitrust.