Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Authors Groups Tackle Research Libraries in Copyright Infringement Suit

Seal of the United States District Court for t...Image via WikipediaIf the 23-page complaint, The Authors Guild, Inc. et al. v. HathiTrust, The Regents of the University of Michigan et al, filed this week in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, proves anything, it's that one person's digital archives repository is another's den of copyright infringement.

As reported in The New York Times, the Authors Guild, a not-for-profit New York-based industry group that boasts more than 8,500 members, joined by plaintiffs the Quebec Union of  Writers, The Australian Society of Authors and eight individual authors, allege the defendant research libraries and universities are infringing on their  copyrights and exclusive rights under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act ("DMCA") [Pub. L. 105-304], which amended the Copyright Act of 1976 [Title 17 of the U.S. Code] "by digitizing, archiving, copying and now publishing the copyrighted works without the authorization of those works’ rights holders."

Ann Arbor, Michigan-based defendant HathiTrust, founded in 2008, is a partnership of more than 50 universities, educational institutions and consortia whose research libraries have collaborated thus far to create a digital archive of more than 9.5 million books and journals. Rather than pursue damages against the defendants, the plaintiffs are asking the court to issue an injunction to order the removal of the works from the HathiTrust servers, which would be held by a trustee.

The plaintiffs' complaint allege the defendants are violating 17 U.S.C. sec. 108, which permits libraries to make digital copies of unpublished works for preservation purposes and as replacements for published works, but places  restrictions on permissible uses of digital copies: "(a)There can be no further distribution of  the digital format; and (b)the digital copy cannot be used 'outside the premises of  the library or archives.'"

The suit also challenges HathiTrust's methodology for designating books as "orphan works," whose rights-holders are unknown or cannot be found, the Times reports. The Authors Guild is battle-seasoned, having sued Internet search engine behemoth Google in 2005 for scanning and archiving digital books.

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