Today, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld (pdf) the ruling in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, deciding that providing a full text search database and providing access to works for people with print disabilities is fair use. The court also ruled that the Authors Guild lacked standing, and therefore could not assert infringement claims against the HathiTrust. The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), of which the American Library Association (ALA) is a member, filed an amicus brief (pdf) in support of the HathiTrust.
ALA President Barbara Stripling released the following statement in response to the ruling:
“The Second Circuit today affirmed more than a lower court decision–it affirmed that the fair use of copyrighted material by libraries for the public is essential to copyright law. ALA is pleased that the court recognizes the tremendous value of libraries in securing the massive record of human knowledge on behalf of the general public and in providing lawful access to works for research, educational, and learning purposes, including access for people with disabilities.
“The continued acknowledgement of the importance of fair use to enable learning and support for the development of a well-informed citizenry makes the U.S. copyright law unique and well-functioning.”
This decision affirms that libraries can engage in mass digitization to improve the discovery of works and provide full access to those works to students with print disabilities enrolled at the respective HathiTrust institutions. The general public can search the database using keywords and locate titles held in 80 member institutions. Full text access to the underlying works is allowed only for students with print disabilities enrolled at the University of Michigan and certified as disabled by a qualified expert.
Students with print disabilities are blind or have a handicap that prevents them from reading printed text. Because of the full conversion of the texts to digital format that is accessible, these students can use adaptive technologies, such as text-to-speech, to read.
ALA will continue its defense of fair use in the HathiTrust case, should additional appeals be filed.