Tim Lee reports that Google has won a big victory for its plan to scan the world's books and make them accessible via the web. Judge Denny Chin of the Southern District of New York ruled today that Google's project constituted fair use and therefore wasn't a copyright violation:
Fair use rulings focus on four factors. Of these, the most important is whether the use of the work is "transformative." Chin ruled that Google Books passes this test easily.
"Google Books digitizes books and transforms expressive text into a comprehensive word index that helps readers, scholars, researchers, and others find books," he wrote. "Google Books does not supersede or supplant books because it is not a tool to be used to read books."
....He rejected authors' arguments that people could use the search engine to assemble copies of entire books out of the short "snippets" Google displays in search results. Chin noted that this was impossible because Google, anticipating this objection, deliberately excludes about 10 percent of the text in each book from being displayed in search results.
This ruling will be appealed, of course, so this isn't the end. But it's a good start.