« Traffickers of Very Expensive Online Legal Search: How do we use and teach today's legal search services when we don't know how the search engines work? | Main | Finally a Law School Scandal That Does Not Implicate the ABA as an Accomplice »
October 12, 2011
Authors File Amended Complaint Against the HathiTrust
Publishers Weekly is reporting that the Authors Guild has filed an amended complaint in its suit against the HathiTrust libraries. The complaint seeks to add additional plaintiffs. These are authors who have been mistakenly listed in the category of orphan works and foreign author groups. There has been publicity that some of the status searches conducted by the libraries have been flawed. University of Michigan librarian John Wilkins is quoted in the PW article as saying "Once we create a more robust, transparent, and fully documented process, we will proceed with the work, because we remain as certain as ever that our proposed uses of orphan works are lawful and important to the future of scholarship and the libraries that support it.” He added “Our mistakes have not resulted in the exposure of even one page of in-copyright material being made available."
Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild is also quoted, stating “Universities are important cultural bastions, valued by all of us. In this case, university defendants are using their immunity from money damages to act as pirates, rather than custodians, of our literary heritage." I’d like to respond to that.
Libraries tend to act within the law. It's not in their interest to do otherwise. I’ve said as much in any number of posts. They make easy targets for suits such as this one. In fact, the HathiTrust libraries expected the suit by the Authors Guild or someone like them. Calling them pirates? I don’t think so. One of the concerns of librarians for commercially produced digital media, books, movies, music, is that DRM stands in the way of preserving items for future legal use. It in fact, DRM diminishes these “cultural bastions” as you call them.
The United States Copyright Office and the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program of the Library of Congress issued the The Section 108 Study Group Report in 2008. It covered various aspects of preservation in regard to what libraries could and could not do under existing laws and made recommendations as to how to change the law to balance the commercial needs of marketers to sell content and for libraries to preserve it. The proposals to change the law attempted to address those concerns and so far nothing has been enacted, leaving libraries in a preservation and access limbo. The report is here for those wishing to read it.
Calling libraries pirates doesn’t further your cause, especially if a court rules in their favor. Then, I suppose they will be legal pirates. Would that make you feel any better? While I can decry the loss of revenue to content holders through illegal downloading, I’ll bet that in 100 years the cultural bastions of the world will be better stocked by content located in an individual’s basement rather than a library. That’s because individuals may not be compelled to follow the law where a library would. I suggest that authors, publishers, distributors think about ways to allow preservationists to do what they do while maintaining the legal control over the commercial use of the content. Preservation is the other P-word. There is value in that. [MG]