The case has been in the works for seven years. But yesterday, a judge finally ruled that thousands of authors can sue Google Inc. in a class action over the Internet giant’s plan to create the world’s largest digital book library.

Plaintiffs in the case, which was filed in 2005, claim that Google’s plan for its digital library to include millions of out-of-print works amounted to “massive copyright infringement.”

Google signed an agreement with several big research libraries in 2004 to copy the works and offer them in digital formats on its Google Books website. The company said its library would have been designed merely to help researchers and the general public find hard-to-locate materials. In those eight years, Google has since copied more than 12 million works but had only planned to provide short excerpts of them in accordance with fair use law.

In his ruling, U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin said it would be more efficient for plaintiffs to sue as a group so not to risk disparate results or “exponentially” higher costs of individual suits.

Read more about this suit on Thomson Reuters.

For previous InsideCounsel stories about this ongoing case, see:

Google in talks with authors, publishers

Google gets two months to finalize Google Books

Google loses book case