A group of authors has sued the HathiTrust digital library and five US universities over what it calls the unauthorised scans of seven million books.
The collective of authors groups representing writers from around the world – including writers from Australia, Britain and Canada – claims the Google-provided files put the libraries and universities in breach of copyright.
The books in question are considered by the universities and Google as “orphan” works, where the writer can't be found, but publishers and authors contest whether the original IP owner was actually hard to track down, and accused the universities of snatching the content.
“This is an upsetting and outrageous attempt to dismiss authors’ rights,” said Angelo Loukakis, executive director of the Australian Society of Authors.
“Maybe it doesn’t seem like it to some, but writing books is an author’s real-life work and livelihood. 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.”
According to the lawsuit, the universities "obtained from Google unauthorised scans of an estimated seven million copyright-protected books, the rights to which are held by authors in dozens of countries".
The universities have pooled their resources and set up the HathiTrust library to make the books available to students, but the authors believe the interpretation of orphaned works needs challenging.
While older titles are fair game to be digitised once they have passed out of copyright, the Authors Guild claimed the books scanned in by Google and waiting to be released by the universities include new works, too.
“The universities have, without permission, digitised and loaded onto HathiTrust’s online servers thousands of editions, in various translations,” the complaint said.
“Works from nearly every nation have been digitised. HathiTrust’s databases house more than 65,000 works published in the year 2001, for example.”
The law suit takes aim at the HathiTrust, the University of Michigan, the University of California, the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, and Cornell University.
This article originally appeared at pcpro.co.uk