INTERNET GIANT Google is in court again, this time to argue that it should be allowed to copy and index the world's books.
Although it has an agreement in place with US libraries that has seen it reproduce portions of 20 million publications online, a legal challenge from authors sent it back to the courts.
US Distric Court Judge Denny Chin has been hearing a lawsuit by the Authors Guild, which believes that despite the agreement, the scans represent mass infringement of authors' and graphic artists' copyrights.
It follows a hearing in July, at which Judge Barrington Parker ruled that Google's project could have "enormous value for our culture... This is something that has never happened in the history of mankind".
Edward Rosthental representing the Authors Guild argued that while Google's work might benefit society in some cases, it should be up to authors whether their works should be displayed.
Google is citing "fair use", saying that the scans were used to aid the search algorhythm and improve search results, but that only extracts of the books appear online. It is this second point that Judge Chin, despite indicating his support for Google at Monday's hearing, did not rule on categorically, meaning the case is likely to drag on for as long as the search giant continues to publish verbatim book extracts, as there is no clear ruling on whether public availability violates fair use.
This is, of course, another example of a legal system that his been forced into uncharted waters as technological advances outrun the laws that govern them. We have to wonder if, despite our broad support of the use of publications in search results, actually making copyrighted material available online might be trying to have our cake and eat it too. µ