Authors Guild sues universities over online books

Sep 13, 2011 By LARRY NEUMEISTER , Associated Press

Authors and authors' groups in the United States, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom sued the University of Michigan and four 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 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan against Michigan, the University of California, the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University 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 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.

The university planned to make about 40 books available online to its students and faculty in October, said Paul Courant, the dean of libraries at the university. He said university officials had been in discussions with the in recent weeks about its plans and were surprised by the lawsuit.

"I'm confident that everything we're doing and everything we're contemplating doing is lawful use of these works," Courant said.

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

Courant said Google had digitized about 5 million books out of its library so far and had several million books left to scan. He said it was of "great value" to students and faculty to get the books online.

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 Daniele 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 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 allowed book owners to choose to join the library rather than being required to quit it.

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User comments : 7

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Singularity24601
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 13, 2011
Litigation over out-of-print books is akin to patent trolling. Copyright squatters who do not distribute their works yet sue others for doing so are parasites, contributing nothing, yet trying to drag down the rest of society like the Luddites of old.
Magnette
2.8 / 5 (4) Sep 13, 2011
Litigation over out-of-print books is akin to patent trolling. Copyright squatters who do not distribute their works yet sue others for doing so are parasites, contributing nothing, yet trying to drag down the rest of society like the Luddites of old.


So you don't think that the authors and publishers have a right to earn from their works?
Squirrel
5 / 5 (2) Sep 13, 2011
So you don't think that the authors and publishers have a right to earn from their works?


Yes but why more so many more decades than the 20 years given by patents to inventors? Are the needs of authors and inventors so different?
InsaniD
5 / 5 (4) Sep 13, 2011

So you don't think that the authors and publishers have a right to earn from their works?


Sure - and they did - many years ago. We are talking about old stuff that they don't even care enough about to keep in print, and if you had read the article, and not just the comments, you would have learned that the authors of these works couldn't be located. If it were the actual authors suing, that would be one thing, but this is a 3rd party group with a hair up its collective butt.
Nanobanano
5 / 5 (1) Sep 13, 2011
As long as individual people, their descendants, or "companies" are allowed to indefinitely "Own" knowledge or technology real progress towards type 1 civilization will be hindered.

A "Star Trek" world civilization cannot exist in a world where people are permanent slaves to the establishment of patent and copyrights holders.

It's one thing to be compensated for your contribution, it's another thing to perpetually "own" the rights to entire sectors of knowledge or technology.

Publishers, authors, and even universities "owning" rights to works by dead authors is ridiculous.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.5 / 5 (4) Sep 13, 2011
"So you don't think that the authors and publishers have a right to earn from their works?" - Magnette

Poor Magnette didn't read the article before responding.

You can't get dumber than that unless you go TeaTard Dumb.

The authors that Poor, Magnette is referring to, have abandoned their works, can't be found, aren't seeking to profit from their works, and are probably long dead.

Magnette
2.2 / 5 (5) Sep 13, 2011
Poor, poor VendiTard....once again so wrong and having to jump on the bandwagen to try to appear clever. Perhaps you should try reading more than the comments and try to understand what people are saying.

At least I did read the article before responding.

Also included would be the publishers of said works who will still have rights as they don't have a twenty year cut-off...or perhaps the US limits how long somebody has the right to earn from their work? We don't in the UK.

What happens if the authors or the spouse of the author surfaces?

From the article -
"The authors said they obtained from Google Inc. the unauthorized scans of an estimated 7 million copyright-protected books"

Those copyrights still stand whether or not the authors can be personally contacted.

My point still stands...authors and publishers still have the right to earn from their work. If they surface 6 months after Google have digitized it they have a right to be compensated.

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