Google Inc. (GOOG) Digital Library Case May Finally Go to Trial

Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) has been working on a project to build what it is calling the world’s largest digital library of books, but a group of authors have taken exception to the project, claiming copyright infringement of its works. Now, after seven years of legal wrangling, a judge has finally cleared the way for the case to go to trial.

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One of the final steps toward a trial was concluded this week, as U.S. Circuit Jude Denny Chin refused a motion from Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) to delay the trial until after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Chin’s original order in May, which granted class-certification status for the group of authors. He ruled that a class-action lawsuit is “more efficient and effective” than having thousands of individual authors bring forth their own copyright claims. The judge’s order was filed Wednesday in Manhattan.

Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) appealed for the delay in the case – which was first filed in 2005 – because it didn’t consider it fair to be arguing the case while the individuals authors decided whether to opt out of the class. Judge Chin found that ironic, “in light of Google’s fervent opposition to class certification,” he wrote in his order. “The merits would have to be reached at some point in any event, and there simply is no good reason to delay matters further.”

Chin said he will hear arguments in October regarding whether he should decide the issues in the case instead of having a jury trial.

The Authors Guild, which sought the class status, has argued that it was “impractical and expensive” for individual authors to file claims against Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), considering the company has already scanned about 20 million works into its library. The guild was requesting $750 in damages for each copyrighted book that was in the library.

Lawyers for Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), of course, claim the company is compliant with copyright law. All of these current and potential legal battles may not be compliant with investors in Google stock – especially hedge-fund managers like Julian Robertson of Tiger Management.