Courant says copyright lawsuit against U-M 'misguided and unnecessary'
University Librarian and Dean of Libraries Paul Courant says he was disappointed by what he called a “misguided and unnecessary” lawsuit filed this week by the Authors Guild and others seeking to stop digitization efforts of copyrighted material at the U-M Libraries.
The U-M, HathiTrust, and four other university partners were sued over alleged copyright infringement of digitized books. In the lawsuit, the Authors Guild and authors groups from Canada and Australia, demand that digitization efforts of copyrighted material stop and that digital versions be impounded and no longer made available.
“As a research university, we are a community of authors, and we have deep respect for copyright law and for the rights and interests of authors," Courant says. “Our digitization efforts simply reflect the library’s continuing legacy of prudence in curating the world’s scholarly and cultural record.”
Digital versions of the university’s books primarily are used for preservation purposes, but also for providing access to people who have print disabilities, as a finding tool for the library’s works, and for scholarly research.
The lawsuit also seeks to halt the university’s nascent Orphan Works pilot project. An “orphan” work is a work for which the rights holder cannot be identified and the book itself no longer is available for purchase new, or is “out of print.”
The university currently is searching for rights holders of books that likely may be orphan works. The goal of the project is to allow students, faculty and staff at the university to view books that the university owns, and to download one page at a time, similar to taking the book off the shelf and making a copy at a copy machine.
The university is reviewing the legal documents and will respond to the complaint.