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Federal judge allows Google Books class action to proceed

A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Thursday granted [opinion, PDF] class action status to numerous authors suing Google [corporate website] over its book-scanning initiative [Google Book Search website]. Judge Denny Chin reasoned that the numerosity, commonality and typicality elements for Rule 23(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [texts] is satisfied. Google had scanned millions of books without consent of the authors, leading the number of the infringed class to be in the thousands, all class members' injuries stems from Google's "unitary course of conduct" and each members' claim arises out of the same conduct by Google. Thursday's decision also rejected Google's petition to dismiss claims by the Authors Guild [advocacy website] and other plaintiffs including the Association of American Publishers (AAP) [association website], McGraw-Hill, Penguin Group and Simon & Schuster [corporate websites] that would have forced members to sue Google individually. The court reasoned that although "different classes of works may require different treatment for the purposes of 'fair use,' the fair use analysis does not require individual participation of association members." Additionally, the court pointed out that Google cannot ask the infringed parties to seek a remedy individually because it did not seek information about each work before it engaged in unauthorized scanning.

In March of last year Chin rejected an amended class action settlement agreement that was reached in 2008 between Google and the plaintiffs, who brought the copyright suit [JURIST reports] in 2005. The settlement agreement stated that Google would pay $125 million to the authors and publishers of copyrighted works in exchange for the permission to display up to 20 percent of the work online. The court reasoned that the settlement agreement would allow Google too much rights to exploit copyrighted works in the future. This ruling came a month after Chin delayed [JURIST report] it because he was not ready.

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