Authors take aim at Google Books with a lawsuit against five US universities
An international group of writers are suing five American universities for copyright infringement – and sending a warning to Google Books.
One party is calling it “one of the largest copyright infringements in history.” The other says its “a lawful activity and important work for scholarship.”Skip to next paragraph
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A group of authors and writers’ groups around the world are suing five American universities for copyright infringement for creating online libraries comprised of millions of books scanned by Google.
Observers are calling the fight a proxy battle in the long-running court battle between Google and publishers, the outcome of which could foretell Google’s fate in the matter.
The Authors Guild, the Australian Society of Authors, the Union Des Ecrivaines et des Ecraivains Quebecois, and eight individual authors – British novelist Fay Weldon, Pulitzer-winning American biographer T.J. Stiles, children’s author Pat Cummings, poet Andre Roy, Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro, and novelists Angelo Loukakis, Roxana Robinson, and Daniele Simpson – have filed suit against the universities of California, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Cornell.
The schools partnered with Google to digitize millions of books, including out-of-print and orphan works, books whose writers could not be located. Among the seven million scans schools obtained from Google were works by Simone de Beauvoir, Italo Calvino, Gunter Grass, Herta Muller, and Haruki Murakami. The digitization project was designed to allow students and university staff access to scholarly and other works, the schools claim.
The lawsuit centers on one such project at the University of Michigan, the HathiTrust repository. The suing authors say the scans the schools received from Google were copyright-protected and the scans themselves were unauthorized. And the lawsuit calls the digitization, copying, archiving, and publishing of the works “one of the largest copyright infringements in history.” According to the suit, the schools’ "not only violate the exclusive rights of copyright holders to authorize the reproduction and distribution of their works but, by creating at least two databases connected to the internet that store millions of digital copies of copyrighted books, the universities risk the widespread, unauthorized and irreparable dissemination of those works.”