I posted about the HathiTrust/Authors Guild lawsuit over on the SLA Academic blog, on the off-chance that somebody out in libraryland hadn’t heard about it yet. I’m not going to go on about it at length here, because in four business days a huge number of far more prolific librarian bloggers have said just about everything that needed saying. HathiTrust themselves have put together an excellent information page that includes a lot of commentary; I especially recommend the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Corynne McSherry’s take, “No Authors Have Been Harmed in the Making of This Library”.
I will add two thoughts of my own, though. First, digitizing and disseminating orphan works should be a no-brainer at this point, and the fact that this issue even exists demonstrates how broken our copyright law is. Libraries must be allowed to preserve these works because no one else has both the incentive and the means to do so, and — by definition — no one has any legitimate claim to intervene.
Second, the this lawsuit is a huge mistake for the Authors Guild and company, not because they’re sure to lose, but because they might win. I’ve come to expect publishers to try to gouge and undermine libraries at every opportunity, but authors? Especially authors whose works aren’t even involved? That’s just dumb, and any “victory” they manage to pry out of the legal system will just end up hurting their profession in the long run, as they undermine one of the best avenues to get their works seen and read.
Until recently, the Authors Guild knew that their profession and ours were on the same side. It’s a shame to see how willing they are to forget.
Frustrated as I am, I’m going to end with a reminder that frustration can be channeled to create amazing things; it just takes determination and volume.
Thanks to Jason Griffey for the link. Enjoy the weekend, y’all.