Authors Guild declares war on university effort to rescue orphaned books

Back in June, I wrote about the Hathi Trust, which is rescuing orphaned literary works from the university libraries that Google has scanned. If they can't find an author for a book, and if it's not in print, they're going to make it available.

So, naturally, the Author's Guild, a DC lobbying outfit that represents a tiny handful of authors, is suing. These are the same people who think Amazon shouldn't be allowed to sell used books, mind.

A separate issue in the suit is an orphaned works project started by the Hathitrust that focuses on some of the works within this archive. The group is attempting to identify out-of-copyright books, and those where the ownership of copyright cannot be established. If attempts to locate and contact any copyright holders fail, and the work is no longer commercially available, the Hathitrust will start providing digital copies to students without restrictions. This has not gone over well. The executive director of the Australian Society of Authors, Angelo Loukakis, stated, "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."

The authors' coalition would like to see everything grind to a halt—Google and the libraries kept from any further scanning, the HathiTrust's orphaned works project shuttered, and the digital copies on its servers impounded. The digital works wouldn't be deleted, but it wants to see "any computer system storing the digital copies powered down and disconnected from any network, pending an appropriate act of Congress." (Note that they want them shut down and unplugged, just to be sure.)

Authors' Guild sues universities over book digitization project