Intellectual Property Law

2nd Circuit OKs searchable book database, calls copying entire volumes for this purpose fair use

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Copying entire books in order to create a searchable database of millions of volumes is a “quintessentially transformative use,” a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday.

Siding with a group of universities sued by authors alleging infringement, the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the full-text database fell within a “fair use” safe harbor provided by federal copyright law, the Associated Press reports. The ruling by the New York-based court also permits the HathiTrust Digital Library to make books available to those with handicaps that prevent them from reading printed text.

“Today the Second Circuit radically changed for the better the lives of print-disabled Americans, that is, those who cannot readily access printed text, whether because of blindness, arthritis, dyslexia, cerebral palsy, upper spinal cord injury or a host of other conditions,” said attorney Daniel F. Goldstein, who argued in the appeal on their behalf, in an email. “Those of us without a print disability take for granted our easy access to our collective intellectual capital stored in libraries. Now that same access will be available to those with a disability.”

A lawyer for the plaintiff authors declined to comment. They had argued in court filings that books stored on the Internet are vulnerable to cybertheft and want Congress to enact legislation that better protects their work, the AP article says.

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