Authors Guild v. HathiTrust
The Authors Guild v. HathiTrust case centers on a copyright infringement case filed by the Authors Guild (also notable as a plaintiff in the Google Books case) against HathiTrust, a not-for-profit library organization dedicated to making a limited number of uses of digitized books.
The District Court issued a strong opinion in October, dismissing the case in favor of HathiTrust. The Court characterized HathiTrust's activities -- indexing books for search, making backups available for libraries that own copies of particular books, and providing access to people with print disabilities -- as an "invaluable contribution to the progress of science and cultivation of the arts that at the same time effectuates the ideals espoused by the ADA."
The Authors Guild has appealed the decision to the Second Circuit.
- Authors Guild sues HathiTrust
- Oct. 10, 2012 - Case dismissed; very favorable decision for libraries.
- Decision available at scribd.
- Analysis from UMass Scholarly Communication Office.
- ARL's comments (available at the ARL Public Policy blog).
- The Library Copyright Alliance press release on the decision.
- ARL webcast video on the decision.
- Nov. 8, 2012 - Authors Guild announced they are appealing the decision.
Memo, Oct. 10, 2012
Libraries received great news on the HathiTrust case, which was dismissed by the court. The final line of the judgment read: "The Clerk of the Court is instructed to ... close the case, and remove it from my docket."
Here is a very quick analysis from a first reading. More to come in the next few days from a lot of sources, I'm sure!
Judge Baer was completely dismissive of plaintiffs' arguments that Section 108 precludes library reliance of Section 107. Nobody, I think, was seriously worried about that claim, but it was nice to have it so summarily dismissed.
On fair use, the court found that at least two of the HathiTrust uses are transformative (full-text searching; disability access), which was great and important for the rest of the analysis. On the fourth factor, the court was not persuaded by plaintiffs' arguments: Copyright holders cannot preempt a transformative market. The Court was persuaded by defendants' arguments that the prohibitive cost of acquiring licenses for all the works would prevent the formation of the (preservation, indexing, accessible) market to begin with.
Looking at the totality of the fair use factors, the court found that the underlying purposes of copyright law to promote the Progress of Science would be best served by allowing the uses:
"Although I recognize that the facts here may on some levels be without precedent, I am convinced that they fall safely within the protection of fair use such that there is no genuine issue of material fact. I cannot imagine a definition of fair use that would not encompass the transformative uses made by Defendants’ MDP and would require that I terminate this invaluable contribution to the progress of science and cultivation of the arts that at the same time effectuates the ideals espoused by the ADA."
This is strong language, and a clear win for libraries and their supporters.
One final note. The Court was very influenced by the amicus briefs filed by library organizations and the digital humanities researchers; they were cited multiple times. It is gratifying to see the advocacy of the library community paying off so handsomely.
Last Edited: 19 May 2014