The Authors Guild sues HathiTrust

Posted by Ben Naddaff-Hafrey on October 6, 2011 in Blog.

On September 12, 2011, the Authors Guild filed suit against HathiTrust for copyright infringement.  This suit is in many ways an expansion of the ongoing negotiations in the Google Books suit (begun in 2005), and the Authors Guild is attempting to keep the libraries in the HathiTrust consortium from digitizing any more copyrighted works, prolonging their relationship with Google Books, or providing orphan works for online viewing.

HathiTrust works towards establishing and preserving a digital cultural record.  The organization sources much of its material from the digital copies—many of which were created for the Google Books Project—produced by its partner institutions.  This collaboration began in 2004, and until this point HathiTrust has remained unaffected by the Google Books Suit.

The Authors Guild represents predominantly trade authors, and their actions against HathiTrust have been drawing strong reactions from the digital library community.  This lawsuit raises dominant questions in the digital library landscape such as treatment of orphan works, fair use, and the degree to which in-copyright works should be made accessible.  In a September 15 statement, HathiTrust responded to the suit.  In their comment, they wrote, “Digitization is a reflection of library prudence, rather than the reckless activity as characterized by the Authors’ Guild complaint and accompanying statement,” going on to characterize their Orphan Works Project as “an example of library prudence” that is “guided by a deep and abiding respect for intellectual property and US copyright law.”

To read the complaint, click here.  For resources provided by HathiTrust, visit this site.

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