Authors Guild sues universities over Google book scanning

The Authors Guild has five universities and a library partnership organization alleging copyright infringement over their use of certain digitized copies of books made by Google in its Books Library Project.

The lawsuit, filed on Monday, goes after the University of Michigan, the University of California, the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, Cornell University and the . Joining the Authors Guild as plaintiffs are the Australian Society of Authors, the Union Des Écrivaines et des Écrivains Québécois (UNEQ) and eight individual authors.

The HathiTrust was founded in 2008 by several major universities as a partnership of their research institutions and libraries to establish a repository to archive and share their digitized library collections. It contains copyright and public domain books scanned by the universities, Google, the Internet Archive and Microsoft.

However, the lawsuit focuses specifically on copyright works scanned by Google that are in "orphan" status, meaning that the copyright owners for different reasons can't be located and contacted.

Specifically, the Authors Guild objects to a plan unveiled in June by the HathiTrust and the University of Michigan to provide full-text access to digitized orphan works to University of Michigan users and visitors to its campus libraries. Access will only be available to works the university's library has in print format in its collection. Other universities including Cornell and Duke plan to join the effort with similar projects to make orphan works available to their library patrons.

Angelo Loukakis, executive director of the Australian Society of Authors, that the universities' orphan works project is "an upsetting and outrageous attempt to dismiss authors’ rights."