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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

HathiTrust E-Library Has Shield in Fair Use

(CN) - Fair use protects a digital library's "invaluable contribution to the progress of science and cultivation of the arts" from disgruntled authors, a federal judge ruled.

In September 2011, several authors and writers' advocacy groups sued HathiTrust, a library partnership organization, and several universities for teaming up with Google to provide full-text access to so-called "orphan works" whose copyright owners could not be located.

Unlike Google Books, HathiTrust directs users to books and page numbers containing sought-after information without displaying excerpts. Blind or print-disabled users can get special access to the original works, but all others must locate the copyrighted works directly.

U.S. District Judge Harold Baer tossed the case against it Wednesday.

"I cannot imagine a definition of fair use that would not encompass the transformative uses made by defendants' MDP [mass digitalization project] 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 [Americans with Disabilities Act]," Baer's 23-page order states.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defended the initiative as a "great storehouse of human knowledge" in July, hailed the decision.

"Judge Baer got it, and he got it right," the organization said in a statement. "Hopefully, his reasoning will be adopted and expanded in the related Google Books case."

Last week, Google settled with publishers suing it for copyright infringement on secret terms, ending seven years of litigation. Their settlement did not affect the case filed by the Authors Guild, which is ongoing.

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