The Authors Guild suffered a big blow on Wednesday in its battle against the wholesale copying of copyrighted books by Google Inc. and its partners. U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. in Manhattan put a stop to a suit by the Guild and its allies against the HathiTrust Digital Library–a massive digitization project involving Google and more than 60 university libraries–ruling that the defendants’ digital reproduction of millions of works is shielded from the authors’ copyright claims. The Authors Guild and its lawyers at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz set their sights on HathiTrust and the universities last September, after a different federal judge rejected a $125 million settlement in the parallel class action that the Guild and others brought directly against Google over its digitization efforts. The authors alleged that the HathiTrust project allowed Google “to back trucks up to university library loading docks” and scan every book for its own commercial use, not to mention for the unauthorized use of the universities themselves. “Nothing in copyright law,” they claimed, “permits the unlicensed scanning, copying and use of millions of copyrighted books, whether by a giant commercial entity like Google or a group of university libraries.” Judge Baer roundly disagreed on Wednesday, siding with HathiTrust’s lawyers at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton and with other groups–including the National Federation for the Blind–who argued that the character and functions of the digitization project fell squarely within the space carved out in copyright law for fair use.
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