Lawsuit against University Of California and Others Alleges Online Libraries Violate Copyrights

Authors from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada have filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against four universities, including the University of California, alleging that that these universities are infringing on copyrights by developing digital libraries of scanned books.

The lawsuit is filed by the Authors Guild, the Union es Ecrivaines et des Ecrivains Quebecois and the Australian Society of Authors as well as 4 individual authors in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The lawsuit names the University of California, the University of Michigan, Indiana University, the University of Wisconsin and Cornell University. The lawsuit has been triggered by the University of Michigan’s action in creating a repository where students can access unlimited downloads of certain books, including out-of-print books whose authors have not been located. According to the authors, these scans include at least 7 million books. All these universities have pooled unauthorized scans of books at the University of Michigan.

The authors say they also have also have a problem with the way these universities have hijacked so-called “orphaned” books, or books whose authors cannot be located. They deny that these are orphaned books, and that these books are protected under copyright laws.

University of Michigan representatives say that they have been planning to make scanned copies of books available to university students by October. According to them, the authors have always been aware of these plans, and the university is not certain what the basis of the lawsuit is. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages as well as impoundment of the digital scanned copies of the book.

This lawsuit reminds California copyright infringement lawyers of a similar lawsuit that is currently pending against Google. That lawsuit is based on Google’s efforts to create a massive online library of digitized copies of books. Later this year, a judge expects Google and authors in that lawsuit to reach a settlement.