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Circuit Court Issues Decision in HathiTrust Digital Library Case

On June 10, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit determined in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust that the HathiTrust Digital Library constitutes a “fair use” of copyrights works, largely upholding the 2012 dismissal of the case by the U.S. District Court in New York.  EDUCAUSE filed an amicus brief to the Second Circuit with other higher education associations and issued a policy brief outlining the importance of the case.

The lawsuit that prompted the decision was originally filed in 2011 by the Authors Guild and other groups alleging that HathiTrust violated copyright law by making scanned works available for certain uses. HathiTrust Digital Library, formed in 2008, is a searchable online database of written materials. The database was created by universities and research libraries and is currently composed of 80 member institutions. The database houses scanned copies of over 10 million literary works.

In the ruling the court validated the online database, claiming it did not violate copyright protections for authors whose works were scanned, because the database does not reproduce the books or provide actual text of the written work; instead it allows users to search for page numbers where specific text of the works can be found. Therefore, the court claimed authors were not harmed economically.

This is the third ruling in which fair use for mass book digitization was upheld. The other cases include Authors Guild v. Google and Cambridge University Press v. Becker