Three writer groups oppose universities’ digital project

Three major writers’ groups are suing five U.S. universities, claiming their joint effort to digitally archive millions of books amounts to copyright violation.

The U.S.-based Authors Guild, the Australian Society of Authors and Canada’s Quebec Writer’s Union filed a lawsuit Monday in New York against the HathiTrust digital library project. The project is led by the University of Michigan, in conjunction with the University of California, the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University and New York-based Cornell University.

The plaintiffs say the five universities were planning to archive as many as seven million copyright-protected books and allow unlimited downloads by students and faculty members. The copyrighted books have been deemed “orphan works,” out-of-print books whose authors cannot be located.

Angelo Loukakis, the executive director of the Australian Society of Authors, says HathiTrust’s actions are “an upsetting and outrageous attempt” to dismiss authors’ rights.

Loukakis says the books are not “orphaned,” but “abducted books.”

The Authors Guild led a similar lawsuit in 2005 against U.S.-based Internet giant Google literary archival project. A U.S. federal judge dismissed a settlement in the case between Google, and writers’ and publishers’ earlier this year. A new hearing in the case will be held Thursday in New York.

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