Google's fight to digitize the world's books in the largest online library ever created will face more hurdles.

A judge ruled that three authors and the Author's Guild will stand at the forefront of a class action suit.

Authors Betty Miles, Joseph Goulden and Jim Bouton, with the support (and financial resources) of the Author's Guild, will represent the class of all authors and publishers with a stake in any book that's been digitized by Google as part of the search giant's Google Book Search initiative.

in 2004, Google began the initiative, which allows users to search more than 20 million copyrighted books by keyword and view snippets from the works.

In 2008, Google reached a controversial settlement with the digital library project's opponents.

But Judge Denny Chin rejected that settlement last year after a massive backlash from critics, authors, publishers, and even librarians.

Can Author's Guild and three individuals represent all authors?

Miles, Goulden and Bouton won a victory yesterday when Judge Chin ruled that their individual suits against Google, as well as one brought by the Author's Guild, should be consolidated into one class action suit representing all interested parties.

But Google argued that the disparate entities included in such a broad class could not be accurately represented by a single lawsuit.

"As we've said all along, we are confident that Google Books is fully compliant with copyright law," according to a Google statement.

And, it even noted that as many as 58 percent of the authors whose books have been digitized support Google's actions.

Google claimed that it would be unfair for such a class to be represented solely by opponents of the Google Book Search project, and that individual authors should raise individual disputes.

Judge Chin rejected Google's arguments as impractical, writing that the fact that "some class members may prefer to leave the alleged violation of their rights unremedied is not a basis for finding the lead plaintiffs inadequate."

Google Book Search is good for everyone, including authors

Google said in a statement that they believe they're fully within the law.

"As we've said all along, we are confident that Google Books is fully compliant with copyright law," the company said. "Today's decision doesn't determine the underlying merits of the case, nor does it resolve the lawsuit."

Judge Chin reportedly supports Google Book Search in an ideological sense, saying that a digitized library of this magnitude could aid in education and research all over the world.

Not to mention the benefits to authors, who could find new audiences, and the out-of-print books that will suddenly be accessible to billions of people.

But "these issues are largely subject to 'generalized proof,'" the judge wrote.

"Every potential class member's claim arises out of Google's uniform, widespread practice of copying entire books without permission of the copyright holder and displaying snippets of those books for search," he continued.

"Whether this practice constitutes copyright infringement does not depend on any individualized considerations."

Via Businessweek, Ars Technica