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Authors Guild v. HathiTrust: Implications for Libraries

image © Thomas Hawk

Jonathan Band, policybandwidth and legal counsel to the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), released on July 7, 2014, an analysis of the recent Authors Guild v. HathiTrust decision, “What Does the HathiTrust Decision Mean for Libraries?” (PDF). As Band notes, “The decision has implications for libraries that go far beyond the specific facts of the case. This paper offers some preliminary thoughts on what these implications may be.” The paper reviews several issues including mass digitization and storage, access to works, suggestions concerning other forms of access, and associational standing. Band concludes:

The HathiTrust decision provides libraries with much greater certainty concerning their mass digitization projects. The decision indicates that the act of digitization, and the storage of digital files, is a fair use if the libraries provide full-text search functionality and full-text access to disabled individuals. With respect to full-text access to the non-disabled, the court ruled that a use could be transformative if the function or purpose of the use is different from that of the original work. This holding could reasonably be interpreted as permitting full-text access to most digitized archival material (except some popular entertainment materials). Full-text access to certain categories of digitized books, e.g., older books in certain scientific fields or books that are infrequently circulated, may also be permitted. Further discussion between librarians and scholars may lead to other approaches that could provide a basis for allowing full-text access to additional books.

The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) consists of three major library associations—the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College and Research Libraries. These three associations collectively represent over 300,000 information professionals and thousands of libraries of all kinds throughout the United States and Canada. Find LCA on the web at http://librarycopyrightalliance.org/.

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