The Gift to Humanity That Keeps on Giving to Lawyers
September 13, 2011 9:43 AM   Subscribe

The Authors Guild, the Australian Society of Authors, the Union Des Écrivaines et des Écrivains Québécois (UNEQ) along with 8 individual authors (including Fay Weldon) has sued the university consortium HathiTrust over its plans to allow internal institutional access to book scans that HathiTrust members received from Google which HathiTrust believes to be orphaned works. As usual, MeFi's own James Grimmelmann has the best analysis of the suit.
posted by Toekneesan (10 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Your complicated description of this lawsuit is making my brain hurt. The analysis only helps a little. But I think in the end this is precisely why we can't have nice things.
posted by tommasz at 10:41 AM on September 13, 2011

Everything I'd read recently regarding the protracted arguments circulating around the orphaned works debate and Google's book scanning project has been framed in terms of good guys vs. assholes, or douchebags vs. good guys, or douchebags vs. assholes. That Fox News variety of We Report (our position on the matter), You Decide does nobody any good, especially because this long argument is not a simple one.

I mean, I don't believe everybody's acting in good faith. But I would also rather not read accounts that go straight to the editorializing until I've seen something reasonably comprehensive about this recent turn of events.

So thanks for the link to Grimmelmann's analysis. It's the first thing I've read that's reasonable, informative yet a quick read, and even though the author has clear opinions, the piece is comprehensive enough to understand the rationales underlying both sides' behavior.
posted by ardgedee at 10:41 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Would it be possible to get a list of authors that belong to said guild, so that I can use this as a buying guide for the future?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 10:45 AM on September 13, 2011

Old n' Busted, here's the Board of Directors. Oh Judy Blume, why???
posted by emjaybee at 10:53 AM on September 13, 2011

emjabee, that's just the board of directors - I want the whole list of guild members so that I can be a better informed reader and buyer of books.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 11:09 AM on September 13, 2011

Google's still scanning books?

I thought the Author's Guild Irregulars, armed with pitchforks and torches had pushed the Scanning Engine into the sea.
posted by mmrtnt at 11:45 AM on September 13, 2011

I don't know how complete it is, but there's a list of member websites.
posted by kmz at 12:06 PM on September 13, 2011

But I would also rather not read accounts that go straight to the editorializing until I've seen something reasonably comprehensive about this recent turn of events.

Agreed. I thought the info at the "its plans" link (by a law professor and director of a law library) was also pleasantly informative, particularly the parts about why a plan like this could have difficulty justifying itself under fair use and so on.

I also particularly like the suggested EU plan, also mentioned at the same link, which suggests "Once a 'diligent' search is conducted by anyone within the exchange, a license would be issued for use of the item. Revenues would be held for potential owners or paid to social or cultural societies." Seems like a pretty good solution all around to me. I'm sure the "information must be free" purists would be unhappy, but I'm not sure there's a realistic solution that would change that.
posted by Amanojaku at 1:15 PM on September 13, 2011

I'm sorry about the awkward wording but I really wanted to be agnostic about it and not editorialize (I realize that is no excuse for failing to get the verb and subjects to agree), but my own take on this is—this is good. Or at least has the potential to end well. I say that because I don't think the orphans will lose. I think this will establish a precedent that will benefit us all. It's not what they're doing, which is a little sketchy, it's who's doing it and how.

This needed to happen. We have long needed to adress the issue of orphaned works. This is going to do that. I'm probably being cocky, but I'm glad this is going to court. Good luck universities. You are on the right side of this.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:00 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

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