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Background: Last night, a federal district court in New York held that universities were well within their fair use rights to scan their library books, indexing them for search and making copies available for their print-disabled users. The district court opinion, Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, is available here.
The following statement can be attributed to Sherwin Siy, Vice President of Legal Affairs:
"We're happy to see that the court recognized that fair use permits the owners of books to digitize them, making them available to the print-disabled and allowing copyrighted works to be scanned and indexed so that they can be searched for and cataloged. These are exactly the kind of beneficial uses that fair use--and copyright law in general--are intended to promote: the progress of science and the useful arts. Requiring plaintiffs' permission for each book to be digitized for these purposes would render the organization of and access to these books--book that the universities had already paid for--subject to the authors' varying priorities.
"Allowing these uses, none of which cannibalize the market for authors' works, means that educational institutions do not need to seek permission to catalog their own holdings more completely, and that print-disabled students need not depend upon the sporadic indulgence of publishers, or the limited resources of disability services offices to access the wealth of knowledge existing in their universities.
"As important is the concept that making digital copies of works for non-consumptive uses--like indexing, searching, and statistical analysis--is a transformative fair use. The ability to analyze and organize copyrighted works in this manner paves the way for a wealth of information that will benefit authors, readers, and the public alike."