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.
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The suing authors are also trying to stop a project by the schools to make so-called orphan works available to students and faculty at the named universities. The first set of orphaned works, which includes 27 works by French, Russian, and American writers, is set to be released October 13, with 140 more to follow in November.Skip to next paragraph
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"These aren't orphaned books, they're abducted books," Angelo Loukakis, author and executive director of the Australian Society of Authors, told the Associated Press. "This is an upsetting and outrageous attempt to dismiss authors' rights … This group of American universities has no authority to decide whether, when or how authors forfeit their copyright protection."
"I was stunned when I learned of this," added novelist Danièle Simpson, president of the Quebec writers' body. "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?”
"I'm confident that everything we're doing and everything we're contemplating doing is lawful use of these works," he said, adding that Google had so far digitized about five million books from Michigan's library, with several million more to scan.
"This is a preservation operation, first and foremost," he said. "Books are decaying on the shelves. It's our intention to make them available to people at institutions for scholarly purposes. We are ensuring that the cultural record is preserved.”
The lawsuit is designed to send a warning to Google, whose plans to create the world’s largest digital library by digitizing millions of books have resulted in a contentious, six-year-long court battle. In March, Judge Denny Chin rejected a $125 million settlement Google reached with authors and publishers, saying it wasn’t “fair, adequate, and reasonable,” and gave Google an unfair advantage. A new hearing on that case is scheduled for later this week on September 15.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.