Washington, April 18

The US Supreme Court today declined to hear a challenge by a group of authors who contend that Google’s massive effort to scan millions of books for an online library violates copyright law.

The Authors Guild and several individual writers have argued that the project, known as Google Books, illegally deprives them of revenue. High court left in place an October 2015 ruling by Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in favour of Google.

A unanimous three-judge appeals court panel said the case ‘tests the boundaries of fair use’, but found Google’s practices were ultimately allowed under the law.

The individual plaintiffs who filed the proposed class action against Google included former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton, who wrote the acclaimed memoir ‘Ball Four’.

Several prominent writers, including novelist and poet Margaret Atwood and lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim, signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief backing the Authors Guild.

The authors sued Google, whose parent company is Alphabet Inc, in 2005, a year after the project was launched. A lower court dismissed the litigation in 2013, prompting the authors’ appeal.

Google argued that the effort would actually boost book sales by making it easier for readers to find works, while introducing them to books they might not otherwise have seen.

The company made digital copies of more than 20 million books, according to court papers. Some publishers agreed to allow Google to copy their works.

Google Books allows users to search the content of the books and displays excerpts that show the relevant search results. Google says in court papers the service ‘gives readers a dramatically new way to find books of interest’ and lets people know where they can buy them. Users cannot read ‘any substantial portion of any book’, Google said.

EU’s anti-trust chief examining Android

AMSTERDAM: The EU anti-trust chief, who has already charged Google with favouring its own shopping service in internet searches, said on Monday that she was now examining its deals with phone makers and operators. The comments by European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager follow a year-long investigation into Android, the world’s most popular operating system for smartphones, triggered by two complaints. A decision on the shopping service could come this year. Like the Android case, it could lead to a fine of up to $7.4 billion or 10 per cent of Google’s 2015 revenue, and force it to change its business practices. Vestager said big companies should not try to protect themselves by holding back innovation. “That’s why we’re looking closely at Google’s contracts with phone makers and operators which use the Android operating system,” she said. “Our concern is that, by requiring phone makers and operators to pre-load a set of Google apps, Google might have cut off one of the main ways that new apps can reach customers.” — Reuters