When the Authors Guild and a group of publishers first sued Google in 2005, the ink was barely dry on the earliest holdings that search engine indexing was a fair use, and the legality of creating search engines for copyrighted content was still subject to serious dispute. Those fears have subsided.
Judge Pierre Leval’s magisterial opinion in the Google case is an authoritative restatement of modern fair use, but it breaks no new ground. After a decade of legal decisions, the proposition that search engines are fair use is so well established as to be boring. While there are still interesting cases at the margins (what counts as a search engine? And when does a search engine go too far?) technologists today have secured their landing zone.