Sunday, April 2, 2017

London Book Fair 2017: Judge Pierre Leval Defends Google Books Decision, Fair Use; Publishers Weekly, March 16, 2017

Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly; 

London Book Fair 2017: Judge Pierre Leval Defends Google Books Decision, Fair Use

"In a packed room for the LBF’s 2017 Charles Clark Memorial Lecture, Judge Pierre Leval, America’s foremost copyright jurist and a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals Second Circuit, told attendees that Google’s program to scan tens of millions of library books to create an online index “conferred gigantic benefits to authors and the public equally,” and did not “offer a substitute or interfere with authors’ exclusive rights” to control distribution.

“It was,” Leval concluded, “not a, quote, close case.”

Leval delivered his remarks in what was billed as a debate with intellectual property lawyer and former General Counsel for the U.S. Copyright Office, Jon Baumgarten. But at the outset, both Leval and Baumgarten—long time acquaintances—downplayed the debate aspect. Rather, at a time when proposed exceptions to copyright law have many publishers in the U.K. and Europe on edge, Leval spoke mainly as an ambassador for the American doctrine of fair use...

The key to American fair use, he said, was the flexibility the law gives judges. While he acknowledged there is something to be said for “predictability and bright line rules,” he insisted that hard and fast standards do not best serve the purpose of copyright...

In his portion of the talk, Baumgarten reiterated the publishing community’s main complaints with the decision, and about fair use in the digital age more broadly. Most prominently, that the decision overly expanded the right to freely copy others’ works, which, if widely practiced in the digital age will harm rightsholders. He also bemoaned what he saw as the courts’ expansion of what “transformative” means."

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