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Copyright law for snippets

Google Books, which allow users to search millions of books and read a three eighth of a page snippets, has won again in a US court.

We are often asked how our own 'snippeting service' is treated legally. The answer is that the snippet is limited to 140 words and thus is a quote rather than plagiarism (and is less than the text on Google Books). Further the quote is referenced back to the source, so it has not been 'stolen' (and will drive traffic to the source).

Nonetheless it is very interesting to see the Judge's ruling that copyright exists for the benefit of the public not the creator. I am very sure that many millions of journalists and writers of all hues will be surprised and somewhat dismayed with this decision.

Google Books browsers can search for specific phrases and read snippets of countless volumes, free. How can a company get away with digitising millions of books without the authors’ consent and showing them to the world? In his ruling, Judge Pierre Leval explained that copyright law gives “potential creators” the exclusive right to copy their own work in order to expand everybody’s “access to knowledge”. It is not all about enriching authors. The “ultimate, primary intended beneficiary”, he wrote, “is the public.”



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