Court drops class-action status of Google digital book suit

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals says a previous ruling that allowed the case against Google to be considered a class-action suit was premature.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
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A federal appeals court has decided that the lawsuit against Google's digital scanning of books shouldn't be classified as class-action suit just yet.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said in New York on Monday that Circuit Judge Denny Chin should not have certified a class-action suit against Google, Reuters is reporting. By classifying the case as class action, the judge effectively allowed hundreds of thousands of authors to possibly net some cash in the ongoing lawsuit against the search giant.

Google and the Authors Guild have been embroiled in a lawsuit for nearly a decade. The Authors Guild in 2005 filed suit against Google, saying that its efforts at scanning books for access online through its Books service was copyright infringement. The Authors Guild, which represents the interests of authors, wants $750 per title. Earlier this year, the Guild said that it would take $3 billion in damages.

Google has been arguing for months that the case shouldn't be a class-action suit. To make its case, Google pointed to a poll that found 45 percent of authors had already seen or expect to see higher demand for their books as a result of Google Books. Over half of authors actually approve of the scanning. Google has also said that its actions are fair use.

Despite the court's ruling Monday, it doesn't mean that the class-action lawsuit will be thrown out. The court sent the case back to the lower court to fully hear Google's arguments. At that point, the class-action status could be reinstated or thrown out entirely.

"We are delighted by the court's decision," a Google spokesman told CNET in an e-mailed statement. "The investment we have made in Google Books benefits readers and writers alike, helping unlock the great pool of knowledge contained in millions of books."

Update, 9:02 a.m. PT: Adds statement from Google.