U.S. appeals court rules
against authors in book-scanning lawsuit
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[June 11, 2014] By
NEW YORK (Reuters) -
Universities and research libraries that created a
searchable online database for millions of books did not
violate copyright protections belonging to authors whose
works were scanned, a U.S. appeals court ruled on
Rejecting an appeal by authors' groups, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals in New York said the HathiTrust Digital Library, which
began in 2008 and has scanned more than 10 million works,
constituted a "fair use" of copyrighted works.
The library has 80 member institutions including Cornell University,
Indiana University, the University of California at Berkeley, the
University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin, all of which
were named as defendants.
It allows users to search for page numbers where specific text can
be found, though they cannot see text from the books themselves
unless authorized by copyright holders.
Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Barrington
Parker said the database did not simply reproduce the books but
offered a "transformative use" of them.
“By enabling full‐text search, the HDL adds to the original
something new with a different purpose and a different character,"
The court also said the authors had to show how the library harmed
them economically, because the search function is not a substitute
for the books themselves.
A lawyer for the authors did not immediately respond to a request
Joseph Petersen, a lawyer for HathiTrust, said in a statement, "Our
clients are grateful that the court recognized the immense public
value of the HathiTrust Digital Library and the fact that the
project entirely comports with copyright law."
The lawsuit was filed in 2011 as part of a longstanding fight by
authors against large-scale digitizing and archiving of copyrighted
In November, Google Inc won the dismissal of a long-running lawsuit
by authors who challenged the search company’s Google Books project,
which has scanned more than 20 million books. The authors have
appealed that decision to the 2nd Circuit.
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Tuesday’s decision also allows disabled users who cannot read
printed material to gain access to copies of the works in
alternative forms, including using software that converts the text
into spoken words.
"Never before has disability been irrelevant to the opportunity to
conduct library research," lawyer Daniel Goldstein, who argued the
case on behalf of the National Federation for the Blind, said in an
email. "Until now, the number of library books available to the
blind were minuscule."
The decision largely affirmed an October 2012 dismissal of the case
by the late U.S. District Judge Harold Baer.
The appeals court returned the case to district court to determine a
narrow issue over whether authors can challenge the library’s policy
of offering replacement copies to member libraries if their copies
are destroyed and cannot be obtained at a fair price.
Baer died last month at age 81. The case will be reassigned to
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Tom Brown)
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