Tag Archives: Second Circuit

Second Circuit clears the last hurdle for Google Book Search

The Second Circuit ruled today that, in its present form, the library digitization that Google began over ten years ago does not infringe US copyright law. This decision was entirely predictable given the court’s ruling in the related Hathitrust litigation, it is nonetheless momentous. Judge Leval’s cogent explanation of the law and the facts is an exemplary piece of legal writing. The decision is available here (AG v Google October 16, 2015) and merits careful reading.

This is great win for Google, but more importantly, it confirms a balanced approach to copyright law that will ultimately benefit authors, researchers, the reading public and the developers of new forms of information technology.

I have written several law review articles on the issues raised in this case — Orphan Works as Grist for the Data Mill, 27 Berkeley Technology Law Journal 2012, The Google Book Settlement and the Fair Use Counter-factual, and Copyright and Copy-Reliant Technology 103 Northwestern University Law Review 1607–1682 (2009). However, I believe that it was only when I teamed up with Matthew Jockers (a professor of English literature) and Jason Schultz (a law professor with deep experience in public interest litigation in addition to expertise in copyright) to write the amicus Brief Amicus Curiae of Digital Humanities and Law Scholars that my work truly became influential. The court did not cite the any amicus briefs in the case, but they were cited in the district court case and the related Hathitrust cases. Reading Judge Leval’s decision, I think it is clear that the excellent briefing by Google’s lawyers and the many public interest groups who contributed was helpful and influential.

This case is great victory for the public interest, it is also a great illustration of how a deep commitment to scholarship complements law school clinical programs and helps us serve the public interest.

Authors Guild v. Google will be argued in the Second Circuit on December 3rd

This means we could get a decision before the case’s 10 year anniversary!

Docket Number: 13-04829 in United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Title: The Authors Guild v. Google, Inc.
Date Filed: 12/23/2013
Docket Proceedings
Docket Filed # Docket Text
143 09/30/2014 CASE CALENDARING, for argument on 12/03/2014 at 2:00pm, SET.[1332695] [13-4829]

Even when Judge Easterbrook is right, he is wrong. #fairuse #copyright #blaaah

I have been wanting to blog about the 7th Circuit’s appalling decision in Kienitz v. Sconnie Nation LLC, No. 13-3004 (7th Cir. Sept. 15, 2014) since I read it — exactly seven twenty minutes ago. However, two fifteen minutes ago I discovered that Prof. Rebecca Tushnet (Georgetown Law) has already said most of what I wanted to say.

The case is about the transformative use of a photo. The case for transformation is pretty easy here because there is both substantive transformation (see below) and an obvious shift in purpose in that the original photo is a PR shot of politician opposed to a street party and the new use is a caricature of the same politician on tee-shirts and tank tops.

sconnie

The court of appeals took this easy case as an opportunity to try to unsettle the law of fair use by casting stones at the concept of transformativeness. The court notes that  transformativeness doesn’t appear in the statute, and says it was “mentioned” it in Campbell.  What the Supreme Court actually said in Campbell was  “The central purpose of this investigation is to see  whether the new work merely supersedes the objects of the original creation,  or instead adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message; it asks, in other words, whether and to what extent the new work is ‘transformative.'”  Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 US 569 (1994). (internal citations and quotations omitted)

This is a bit more than a mention.

Now I’ll just quote Rebecca:

…Having not quoted either the Supreme Court or the Second Circuit’s definition of transformativeness (which might allow one to assess whether there is too great an overlap with the derivative works right, or for that matter with the reproduction right since that’s what the majority of Second Circuit transformativeness findings deal with), the Seventh Circuit tells us to stick to the statute.  But it doesn’t tell us what the first factor does attempt to privilege and deprivilege. Instead, the court goes to its own economic lingo-driven test: “whether the contested use is a complement to the protected work (allowed) rather than a substitute for it (prohibited).”  Where this appears in the statute is left as an exercise for the reader, though by placement in the opinion we might possibly infer that it is the appropriate rephrasing of factor one, as opposed to inappropriate transformativeness (though the court later says that factor one isn’t relevant at all).  However, complement/substitute requires some baseline for understanding the appropriate scope of the copyright right—the markets to which copyright owners are entitled—just like transformativeness does.

The Seventh Circuit reached the right result, but its reasoning shallow, its disagreement with the Second Circuit is captious, and its wanton disregard of the jurisprudence of the last twenty years (beginning with the Supreme Court’s decision in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc) is profoundly unfortunate. These are smart judges who could have helped further develop and clarify the law, but chose not to.