It’s difficult to understand how Google’s mission could have been achieved, if the US authors’ union had prevailed. But the US Supreme Court has declined to hear the final appeal. The justices did the right thing. The legal fight over Google’s effort to create a digital library of millions of book is finally over. The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge from authors who had argued that the tech giant’s project was “brazen violation of copyright law” — effectively ending the decade-long legal battle in Google’s favor.
Recently, I had to explain my aversion to Intellectual Property law, despite my PhD work being on copyright law and policy. I said it was the most inelegant and dishonest branch of the law. The central dictum is “ideas are free, only expression is protected.” Yet, even lists of addresses and telephones numbers were protected by copyright (this was subsequently changed in the US). There just did not seem to be an intellectual foundation; just a series of post hoc rationalizations.
This was not a fight we were involved in, but were following with peripheral vision. For those who were in the thick of it, it must be a good day. For us too, because an open Internet benefits everyone. “Let us be clear,” the White House statement said, “online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation’s most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs.” However, it added, “We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.