The Authors Guild v. Hathitrust

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: 10-10-2012
  • Case #: 11 CV 6351 (HB)
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Hon. Harold Baer, Jr., United States District Judge
  • Full Text Opinion

Digitizing a book and putting it into a format possible for a print-disabled person to access it is sufficiently transformative for a fair-use defense.

Opinion (Baer): The Hathitrust Digital Library (Hathitrust) is a service provided by the University of Michigan, which a number of other universities use. Hathitrust entered into an agreement with Google, Inc. (Google), wherein Google would create digital copies of the books in the universities’ libraries, then provide digital copies of those books to the universities, who in turn would contribute that copy to Hathitrust. Hathitrust allowed these copies to be accessed online, but limited that access to print-disabled individuals. The Authors Guild, Inc. et al. sued to stop Hathitrust from digitizing copyrighted works without express permission. The court held that the Copyright Act limits who may enforce a copyright claim to only the copyright holder, and that there was no statutory standing for associations. The court also held that digitizing a book as such and making it accessible to print-disabled individuals was sufficiently transformative for a fair-use defense. Hathitrust’s motion for judgment on the pleadings was GRANTED concerning statutory standing; Hathitrust’s motion for summary judgment was GRANTED.

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