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Google Books case tests the limits of copyright law

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(Read caption) Google says it has permission to copy the works in question through fair use, while the Authors Guild says Google's use of books is purely financial and so not covered by fair use.

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It’s the $2 billion question. What are 2.7 million copyrighted books – books that Google allegedly scanned without permission – worth?

Authors suing Google over the copyright infringement of their books think it’s $750 for each book the Internet giant copied, distributed, or displayed, and have asked a federal judge to force Google to pay up.

In its filing made public Friday, the Authors Guild claimed Google’s digitization project does not constitute “fair use” under copyright law and is therefore seeking $750 in copyright damages per allegedly copyrighted work, for a grand total of more than $2 billion – potentially making this one of the most expensive copyright damages cases in litigation history.

And that’s only the latest turn in a long, complex, and controversial case.

The case began in 2004 with Google’s digitization project in which the Internet giant began copying millions of books per an agreement with several university libraries, including those at Harvard University, Oxford University, and Stanford University. Google’s plan was to make “snippets” of the books available online via its search engine and said some 20 million books have been scanned since the 2004 agreement.

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