[A2k] Authors sue US universities over copyright

Manon Ress manon.ress at keionline.org
Fri Aug 3 05:43:35 PDT 2012

Authors sue US universities over copyright


AUTHORS and authors' groups in the US, Australia, Canada and Britain
are suing five universities, in a bid to stop the creation of online
libraries comprising up to seven million copyright-protected books
they say were scanned without authorisation.

The Authors Guild, the Australian Society of Authors and the Union Des
Ecrivaines et des Ecrivains Quebecois, or UNEQ, joined eight
individual authors to file the copyright infringement lawsuit in US
District Court in Manhattan.

In their sights are the universities of Michigan, California and
Wisconsin, and Indiana and Cornell universities.

The lawsuit accuses the University of Michigan of creating a
repository known as HathiTrust, where unlimited downloads could be
accessed by students and faculty members of so-called orphan works,
which are out-of-print books whose writers could not be located.

The authors said they obtained from Google Inc the unauthorised scans
of an estimated seven million copyright-protected books. They said the
schools had pooled the unauthorised files at Michigan.

The university planned to make about 40 books available online to its
students and faculty in October, said Paul Courant, the dean of
libraries at the university.

He said university officials had been in discussions with the Authors
Guild in recent weeks about its plans and were surprised by the

"I'm confident that everything we're doing and everything we're
contemplating doing is lawful use of these works," Courant said.

The lawsuit seeks to impound the digital copies of the works along
with other unspecified damages.

Courant said Google had digitised about five million books out of its
library so far and had several million books left to scan. He said it
was of "great value" to students and faculty to get the books online.

In a statement, the authors said they sought to stop the October 13
release of 27 works by French, Russian and American authors to an
estimated 250,000 students and faculty members, along with the
scheduled release in November of an additional 140 books. Those works,
they said, included some in Spanish, Yiddish, French and Russian.

The authors said Michigan announced plans in June to permit unlimited
downloads by its students and faculty members of the scanned works it
considered orphans and other universities joined the project in

"This is an upsetting and outrageous attempt to dismiss authors'
rights," said Angelo Loukakis, executive director of the Australian
Society of Authors.

"Maybe it doesn't seem like it to some but writing books is an
author's real-life work and livelihood.

"This group of American universities has no authority to decide
whether, when or how authors forfeit their copyright protection.

"These aren't orphaned books, they're abducted books."

UNEQ president Daniele Simpson said: "I was stunned when I learned of this.

"How are authors from Quebec, Italy or Japan to know that their works
have been determined to be 'orphans' by a group in Ann Arbor,

"If these colleges can make up their own rules, then won't every
college and university, in every country, want to do the same?"

The authors said books from nearly every nation have been digitised,
including thousands of works published in 2001 in China, France,
Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain and the UK, and
hundreds from Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Israel,
Lebanon, Mexico, The Netherlands, The Philippines, South Korea,
Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

The lawsuit was filed just days before lawyers for authors and
publishers are scheduled to tell a judge whether they have reached a
new deal with Google to create a massive online library.

US Circuit Judge Denny Chin had rejected a $US125 million ($A121
million) settlement of a six-year-old lawsuit after objections were
filed by Google rivals, consumer watchdogs, academic experts, literary
agents and even foreign governments.

Chin wrote that many objectors would drop their complaints if Google
allowed book owners to choose to join the library rather than being
required to quit it.

Manon Anne Ress
Knowledge Ecology International
1621 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009 USA
manon.ress at keionline.org

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