Authors Guild v. Hathi Trust

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright, Fair Use
  • Date Filed: 06-10-2014
  • Case #: No. 12-4547-cv
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 10803
  • Westlaw Citation: 2014 WL 2576342
  • Full Text Opinion

When an association serving people with disabilities creates an online database of copyrighted works they are protected under the Fair Use Doctrine.

Opinion (Parker): The HathiTrust Digital Library (HDL) is a trust of thirteen universities that created and maintains a repository for digital copies of the print versions of all of the books owned by over 80 member institutions. HDL allows these materials to be used in three ways one of which authorizes members to allow persons with “print disabilities” to access the full text of the works. Twenty authors and authors’ associations (Authors) sued HDL in district court for copyright infringement. The district court found for HDL under the Fair Use Doctrine. The fair use doctrine weighs four non-exclusive factors to evaluate whether a use is fair: (1) the purpose and character of the use; (2) the nature of the work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the work; and (4) the effect of the use on the market. 17 U.S.C § 107. Since the use of the copyrighted material is allowed under the fair use doctrine as long the use does not “excessively damage the market for the original by providing the public with a substitute.” HDL is authorized to create a database of copyrighted works in order to facilitate access by persons with disabilities because they require the patron to submit documentation from an expert verifying that they would be otherwise unable to access the material and therefore they are not interfering with the market for the original copyrighted product. As a result, the judgment of the district court was AFFIRMED IN PART and VACATED IN PART.

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