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US judge rules ‘fair use’ in scanned books

IN THE FIRST round of the US Authors' Guild case against a consortium of US university libraries going by the name "Hathi Trust", a judge has ruled that scanning books with a view to making them available online is "fair use". That is to say that it falls under the US legal doctrine which means that if someone uses your work there without permission, you have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in court to find out for sure whether they were allowed to.

And it looks as thought the Authors Guild will be spending the money. The group issued a statment that "We disagree with nearly every aspect of the court's ruling" and the organisation is "especially disappointed that the court refused to address the universities' 'orphan works' program".

Within two days of the libraries releasing the first wave of titles whose authors they said they had not found, Guild members had tracked down many - including getting on the phone to the wife of one author's agent in less than three minutes. The Hathi Trust is at present putting online books, scanned under the Google Books scheme, that it believes are out of copyright. For other books it gives a teasing list of occurrences of words, with a notice that "This item is not available online due to copyright restrictions."

Last modified: 13 Oct 2012 - © 2012 contributors
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