San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has joined several national library associations in urging a federal court to find that the fair use doctrine permitted the creation of a valuable digital library.

Although the case was filed long after the more famous Google Books lawsuit, Authors Guild v. HathiTrust presents a similar issue: whether digitization of books without granting full text access to the public is a legal fair use of copyrighted material. For the past seven years, major university libraries have been collaborating with Google to digitize their collections, with one result being the creation of the HathiTrust Digital Library (HDL). Via the HDL, more than 60 university and research libraries can store, secure, and search their digital collections. With the exception of some patrons who have disabilities, HDL does not allow for users to access books in their entirety – it simply does a search for keywords and delivers titles and page numbers as results. Nonetheless, the Authors Guild claims its members are due compensation in exchange for being included in the collection. In an amicus brief filed Friday, EFF and the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries argue that the copying of books for a database like the HDL is a clear case of fair use, and obviously in the public interest.

"The HDL doesn't give most users whole copies of a book. Instead, libraries use the HDL to search for books titles that they should borrow or purchase for their users," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "This is a highly detailed map – a reference tool – and doesn't take the place of book sales. This is just the kind of fair use that copyright law is supposed to protect."

For the full amicus brief in The Authors Guild v. HathiTrust:


Corynne McSherry
   Intellectual Property Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

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