What’s at Stake in the Google Library Suits

January 2007
by Lee Wilson

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Lawyer Lee Wilson has written several books on intellectual-property law, including The Copyright Guide: A Friendly Guide to Protecting and Profiting from Copyrights, and Fair Use, Free Use, and Use By Permission: How to Handle Copyrights in All Media, both published by Allworth Press. She lives and works in Nashville.


Google’s announcement that it planned to let users search books from libraries throughout the world was not met with joy in the publishing industry. In fact, it gave rise to lawsuits from the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, which see a need to protect authors and publishers from unlawful use of their copyrights. This article examines the issues raised by Google’s plan and the lawsuits that seek to stop it.

The “Exclusive Right”

The copyright law of the United States has its origin in a section of the original, unamended Constitution. Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the main body of the Constitution gives Congress the power “to Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing, for limited Times to Authors and Inventors, the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

This language is the genesis of our copyright statute (and our patent statute). Inherent in it is the idea that creators will expend the energy and time to bring works of art and imagination to life because they know they will be r…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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