IBJNews

Authors Guild sues universities over online books

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Authors and authors' groups in the United States, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom sued the University of Michigan, Indiana University and three other universities Monday, seeking to stop the creation of online libraries made up of as many as 7 million copyright-protected books they say were scanned without authorization.

The Authors Guild, the Australian Society of Authors and the Union Des Ecrivaines et des Ecrivains Quebecois, or UNEQ, joined eight individual authors to file the copyright infringement lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan against Michigan, IU, the University of California, the University of Wisconsin and Cornell University.

The lawsuit accuses the University of Michigan of creating a repository known as HathiTrust where unlimited downloads could be accessed by students and faculty members of so-called orphan works, which are out-of-print books whose writers could not be located.

The authors said they obtained from Google Inc. the unauthorized scans of an estimated 7 million copyright-protected books. They said the schools had pooled the unauthorized files at Michigan, where a spokeswoman said she was pursuing comment.

The lawsuit seeks to impound the digital copies of the works along with other unspecified damages.

In a statement, the authors said they sought to stop the Oct. 13 release of 27 works by French, Russian and American authors to an estimated 250,000 students and faculty members, along with the scheduled release in November of an additional 140 books. Those works, they said, included some in Spanish, Yiddish, French and Russian.

The authors said Michigan announced plans in June to permit unlimited downloads by its students and faculty members of the scanned works it considered orphans and other universities joined the project in August.

"This is an upsetting and outrageous attempt to dismiss authors' rights," said Angelo Loukakis, executive director of the Australian Society of Authors. "Maybe it doesn't seem like it to some, but writing books is an author's real-life work and livelihood. This group of American universities has no authority to decide whether, when or how authors forfeit their copyright protection. These aren't orphaned books, they're abducted books."

"I was stunned when I learned of this," said Danièle Simpson, president of UNEQ. "How are authors from Quebec, Italy or Japan to know that their works have been determined to be 'orphans' by a group in Ann Arbor, Michigan? If these colleges can make up their own rules, then won't every college and university, in every country, want to do the same?"

The authors said books from nearly every nation have been digitized, including thousands of works published in 2001 in China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain and the United Kingdom, and hundreds from Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Mexico, The Netherlands, The Philippines, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

The lawsuit was filed just days before lawyers for authors and publishers are scheduled to tell a judge whether they have reached a new deal with the Mountain View, Calif.-based Google to create a massive online library.

U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin had rejected a $125 million settlement of a 6-year-old lawsuit after objections were filed by Google rivals, consumer watchdogs, academic experts, literary agents and even foreign governments.

Chin wrote that many objectors would drop their complaints if Google allowed book owners to choose to join the library rather than being required to quit it.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Lawsuits
    This is going to be a long fight. Publishers are having the same problems with Apple and the e-book pricing model.It falls into the category of another battle in the digital age between what is acceptable and what isn't to people. The world is adjusting to the rights and privacy that seem to be at play in this new age of digital and sharing. The courts are going to be the ones to strike a balance between them.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. why oh why does this state continue to elect these people....do you wonder how much was graft out of the 3.8 billion?

  2. i too think this is a great idea. I think the vision and need is there as well. But also agree with Wendy that there may be better location in our city to fulfill this vision and help grow the sports of hockey and figure skating in Indy. Also to help further develop other parts of the city that seem often forgotten. Any of the other 6 townships out side of the three northernmost could benefit greatly from a facility and a vision like this. For a vision that sounds philanthropic, the location is appears more about the money. Would really like to see it elsewhere, but still wish the development the best of luck, as we can always use more ice in the city. As for the Ice growth when they return, if schedules can be coordinated with the Fuel, what could be better than to have high level hockey available to go see every weekend of the season? Good luck with the development and the return of the Ice.

  3. How many parking spaces do they have at Ironworks? Will residents have reserved spaces or will they have to troll for a space among the people that are there at Ruth Chris & Sangiovese?

  4. You do not get speeding ticket first time you speed and this is not first time Mr.Page has speed. One act should not define a man and this one act won't. He got off with a slap on the wrist. I agree with judge no person was injured by his actions. The state was robbed of money by paying too much rent for a building and that money could have been used for social services. The Page family maybe "generous" with their money but for most part all of it is dirty money that he obtained for sources that are not on the upright. Page is the kind of lawyer that gives lawyers a bad name. He paid off this judge like he has many other tine and walked away. Does he still have his license. I believe so. Hire him to get you confiscated drug money back. He will. It will cost you.

  5. I remain amazed at the level of expertise of the average Internet Television Executive. Obviously they have all the answers and know the business inside and out.

ADVERTISEMENT