Authors Guild lawsuit over HathiTrust is dismissed

October 11, 2012

On Wednesday U.S. District Court Judge Harold Baer, Jr. granted the U-M’s motion for summary judgment in the Authors Guild lawsuit that sought to severely curtail the HathiTrust Digital Library initiative. According to Jack Bernard of the Office of the General Counsel, the judge’s decision dismisses the case and upholds the library’s digitization practices and use of in-copyright materials as lawful and noninfringing.

“We are pleased with the decision, which we believe is in the public interest and will also benefit authors and publishers,” Bernard says.

The lawsuit, which was filed in September 2011, alleged that the University of Michigan, HathiTrust, and four HathiTrust participating libraries—the University of California, the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University and Cornell University—had infringed copyright in their book digitization projects. Among other things, the Authors Guild sought to impound the in-copyright works from HathiTrust, which would have made those works unavailable for transformative uses such as full-text searching, data mining for research purposes, and access for readers who have print disabilities.

The court held that U-M’s uses of in-copyright works do not infringe copyright. In his decision, Judge Baer wrote, “I cannot imagine a definition of fair use that would not encompass the transformative uses made by Defendants’ MDP [mass digitization project] and would require that I terminate this invaluable contribution to the progress of science and cultivation of the arts that at the same time effectuates the ideals espoused by the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act].” He also declared that “academic participation by print-disabled students has been revolutionized by the HDL [HathiTrust Digital Library],” and that U-M can—as an “authorized entity” under the Copyright Act—make in-copyright works accessible to people who have print disabilities.

Paul Courant, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries, says the judge’s decision affirms the digitization program initiated in partnership with Google in 2004, as well as the work of HathiTrust, the library consortium created in 2008 to realize the full potential of library digitized collections. HathiTrust comprises 70 research libraries, and holds more than 10.5 million volumes, the majority of which are in-copyright.

“It’s a great day for the library, and for libraries,” Courant says. “Our partnership with Google has preserved the bulk of our print collection, as well as rendering it discoverable, searchable, and accessible to readers who have print disabilities. And now we know that the benefits of this work will be sustained for the generations to come.”

According to John Wilkin, Executive Director of HathiTrust, “This is a win for every one of the HathiTrust affiliate institutions, and for all libraries.” He says that the decision will likely advance certain HathiTrust initiatives, such as access for affiliated users who have print disabilities, and the use of the digital library for text mining and computational research.


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Last modified: 10/11/2012