HathiTrust Wins On Appeal

I haven’t read the decision yet, so I can’t comment about it yet.  The opinion is here.  The Court’ summary states:

Plaintiff‐appellant authors and authors’ associations appeal a judgment  of  the  United  States  District  Court  for  the  Southern District  of  New York (Harold  Baer, Jr., Judge)  granting  summary judgment  to  defendants‐appellees  and  dismissing  claims of copyright infringement. In addition, the court dismissed the claims of  certain plaintiffs‐appellants for lack  of  standing  and dismissed other copyright claims as unripe. We hold, as a threshold matter, that certain plaintiffs‐appellants lack associational standing. We also hold that the doctrine of “fair use” allows defendants‐appellees to create a full‐text searchable database of copyrighted works and to  provide those works in formats accessible to those with disabilities, and that the claims predicated upon the Orphan Works Project are not ripe for adjudication. We vacate so much of the judgment as is based  on the district court’s holding related to the claim of infringement predicated upon defendants-appellees’ preservation of copyrighted works, and we remand for further proceedings on that issue. Affirmed, in part; vacated, in part.

The American Library Association issued a statement on the case:

Today, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling in Authors Guild v.HathiTrust, deciding that providing a full text search database and providing access to works for people with print disabilities is fair use. The court also ruled that the Authors Guild lacked standing, and therefore could not assert infringement claims against the HathiTrust. The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), of which the American Library Association (ALA) is a member, filed an amicus brief in support of the HathiTrust.

ALA President Barbara Stripling released the following statement in response to the ruling:

“The Second Circuit today affirmed more than a lower court decision—it affirmed that the fair use of copyrighted material by libraries for the public is essential to copyright law. ALA is pleased that the court recognizes the tremendous value of libraries in securing the massive record of human knowledge on behalf of the general public and in providing lawful access to works for research, educational, and learning purposes, including access for people with disabilities.

“The continued acknowledgement of the importance of fair use to enable learning and support for the development of a well-informed citizenry makes the U.S. copyright law unique and well-functioning.”

This decision affirms that libraries can engage in mass digitization to improve the discovery of works and provide full access to those works to students with print disabilities enrolled at the respective HathiTrust institutions.

The general public can search the database using keywords and locate titles held in 80 member institutions. Full text access to the underlying works is allowed only for students with print disabilities enrolled at the University of Michigan and certified as disabled by a qualified expert. Students with print disabilities are blind or have a handicap that prevents them from reading printed text. Because of the full conversion of the texts to digital format that is accessible, these students can use adaptive technologies, such as text-to-speech, to read.

ALA will continue its defense of fair use in the HathiTrust case, should additional appeals be filed.

I expect that some of the reasoning in this case may affect the Guild’s case against Google.  We’ll see.  — Mark

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