1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Class action certification: the key to protecting authors' interests?

Whether Google Library’s book-scanning is fair use is at issue in several lawsuits in the United States, the oldest of which is the Authors Guild’s class action. An appeal is pending against its class-action certification. According to Ilaria Maggioni, recent developments in those other cases might influence that outcome, as she explains in her recent article “Happily ever after?”, published in Intellectual Property Magazine, December 2012/January 2013.

According to Ilaria, reversal of class action certification on appeal is crucial to preserving bargaining power for authors. Maintaining the Google Books suit as a class action is likely to foster continuing inadequacy and unfairness of settlement proposals that may ensue. The October 2012 HathiTrust decision by a district court [noted on this blog by Iona Harding here] recognised fair use of Google’s digitisation on behalf of large university libraries. This created a new obstacle for copyright owners and their representatives since the HathiTrust purports to scan books for benefit of the visually-impaired, but HathiTrust does not correspondingly limit access to its digital library. The district court’s regard for that benefit may have led it to blur the applicable standards for fair use, says Ilaria.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can you explain this sentence: "This created a new obstacle for copyright owners and their representatives since the HathiTrust purports to scan books for benefit of the visually-impaired, but HathiTrust does not correspondingly limit access to its digital library."?

One of the reasons why HathiTrust libraries scan books is for the possible benefit of the visually impaired. But what access do you think people have right now to its digital library? The University of Michigan allows visually-impaired students access to in-copyright digitized works that the University owns in print, but as far as I know, that is the only access allowed to the content of in-copyright books.

Jessica Litman said...

HathiTrust does not allow members of the general public or members of the member university communities to to view *any* in-copyright books in its digital collection. One can search digitized books, but the only result the search engine returns is the number of the pages on which the search term appears. Not even snippets. Try it yourself.