The American Library Association (ALA) has gone on record to declare its support for the recent appeals court victory by HathiTrust versus the Authors Guild for specific fair use by libraries. As already noted in Teleread, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an original ruling in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, deciding that it is is fair use to provide a full text search database and access to works for those with print-reading disabilities .
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the whole case revolved around fair use by libraries in the first place, but it’s good to see librarians publicly getting behind the ruling.
In the ALA official communique on the ruling, ALA President Barbara Stripling said: “The Second Circuit … 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.”
As ALA noted, the appeals court “also ruled that the Authors Guild lacked standing, and therefore could not assert infringement claims against the HathiTrust.” Furthermore, in ALA’s view, “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.”
ALA has also pledged to “continue its defense of fair use in the HathiTrust case, should additional appeals be filed.”