HathiTrust digital library and fair use
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Preservation and dissemination of information is the cornerstone of most libraries. With the onset of the digital age, libraries of all sizes began scanning and cataloging their older documents and pictures, making them available on the Internet. In 2004, a consortium of 13 university libraries partnered with Google digitized millions of unique titles, growing into the HathiTrust Digital Library. HathiTrust developed with the goal of addressing the brittle books problem plagued by libraries and archives, and evolved into providing access to these digitized materials. By 2011, the Authors Guild filed lawsuits on behalf of its members against HathiTrust and Google, separately for copyright infringement and unauthorized reproduction. Both HathiTrust and Google maintained a fair use defense. HathiTrust effectively demonstrated their database and its availability to print-disabled patrons was highly transformative. By digitizing print, analog works, Google was able to create a searchable database of materials. In addition to the search function, libraries were able to use their digitized copy for their print-disabled patrons. The District Court and Court of Appeals upheld HathiTrust and Google’s fair use defense, citing the highly transformative use contributing the most to the fair use balance. The HathiTrust and Google decisions demonstrate how fair use applies in the context of digitization projects within libraries. The HathiTrust decision specifically, serves as a guide for libraries looking to digitize their analog works collections. By following characteristics described in the court opinions, libraries can maintain copyright law compliance. For example, by restricting reproductions of copyrighted materials for preservation and transformative uses, libraries can exercise fair use practices. Through an interview with a member of HathiTrust, more considerations are provided for libraries, they can decide to follow a toolkit provided by HathiTrust, join HathiTrust, or find a combination of options that best fits their institution. As seen by the District Court judge as one of the most important reasons for upholding the HathiTrust, access for the print-disabled communities provides more than just access for a marginalized community, it provides a public good for society. By following some of these conditions, libraries can feel confident going through with a digitization project.