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Publishing News: Judge rules fair use in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust

Summary judgement in favor of HathiTrust, Arment's magazine experiment, and 10 steps to a publishing reformation.

Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.

HathiTrust book scanning ruled fair use

Last week, Google reached a settlement agreement with McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, Penguin, John Wiley & Sons, and Simon & Schuster over its book-scanning project. The Authors Guild was none too happy about the settlement, as it may not bode well for its pending lawsuit against Google. This week, as the Authors Guild called upon the DOJ to review whether or not the terms of the settlement, which were not disclosed, violate Federal antitrust law, the group suffered yet another setback: Judge Harold Baer ruled in favor of the HathiTrust Digital Library in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, ruling that the libraries that gave books to Google to scan are protected under the principle of fair use.

Mathew Ingram at GigaOm argued this week that the authors are standing on the wrong side of the book-scanning issue. He points out that Judge Baer’s decision was a summary judgement, meaning that the judge felt the arguments for fair use were strong enough to make a trial unnecessary. Ars Technica’s Timothy B. Lee takes a nice look at the factors the court considers in fair use cases and which held the most weight in Judge Baer’s decision.

Law professor James Grimmelmann noted that this ruling together with last week’s settlement might be “a moment for a reevaluation of the Authors Guild’s suit against Google.” Ingram and Lee both point out that Google’s fair use argument might not be as strong as HathiTrust’s, but Lee stresses the nuance of the decision may be a positive sign for Google:

“The libraries’ fair use argument is somewhat stronger than Google’s because they are non-profit organizations with fundamentally educational missions. But significantly, Judge Baer did not rely heavily on this fact in siding with the libraries. Instead, he focused on the transformative nature of the libraries’ use. And since Google is making virtually the same use of its own scanned copies of the books, it’s a safe bet that there are some happy lawyers in Mountain View this evening.”

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