Three major authors groups and eight individual authors filed suit against a partnership of research libraries and five universities yesterday, arguing that their initiative to digitize millions of books constituted copyright infringement.
The lawsuit, filed in US District Court for the Southern District of New York, contends that “by digitizing, archiving, copying, and now publishing the copyrighted works without the authorization of those works’ rights holders, the universities are engaging in one of the largest copyright infringements in history.’’
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Authors Guild, the Australian Society of Authors, and the Quebec Union of Writers.
“We’ve been greatly concerned about the 7 million copyright-protected books that HathiTrust has on its servers for a while,’’ said Paul Aiken, executive director of Authors Guild, an industry group that says it represents more than 8,500 authors. “Those scans are unauthorized by the authors.’’
HathiTrust is the name of the partnership of libraries.
The announcement leaves the Authors Guild fighting a two-front war against what it contends is copyright infringement. It filed a lawsuit in 2005 against Google, contending that the company’s project of scanning and archiving digital books violated copyrights.
In March, a federal judge in New York rejected a settlement that Google had worked out with authors’ and publishers’ groups. A new hearing on that case will be held Thursday.
In addition to copyright infringement, the suit also cites concerns about the security of the files in the HathiTrust repository, which is organized and maintained by the University of Michigan.
HathiTrust is a collaboration of research libraries that share the goal of building a digital archive.
John P. Wilkin, the executive director of HathiTrust, said yesterday that nearly all of the digitized works were provided by Google, and the project is “a lawful activity and important work for scholarship.’’