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US colleges hit with Aussie author suit

Prominent authors from Australia and the US have today launched a copyright lawsuit against five prominent US colleges and a joint digital book archive that plans to distribute the plaintiff's books for free and allegedly in breach of author copyrights.
Written by Luke Hopewell, Contributor on

Prominent authors from Australia and the US have today launched a copyright lawsuit against five prominent US colleges and a joint digital book archive that plans to distribute the plaintiff's books for free and allegedly in breach of author copyrights.

The Australian Society of Authors (ASA), the US Authors Guild, the Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois and eight other authors today filed the suit in the New York branch of the US District Court in an attempt to block Cornell University as well as the universities of Michigan, California, Wisconsin and Indiana from distributing allegedly illegal scans of books obtained from Google, as first reported by iTechReport

The author collective alleged that the universities have illegally pooled together over 7 million books obtained from Google in a repository managed by the University of Michigan called HathiTrust. The university plans to release several "orphaned" texts to students and staff for unlimited downloads, with the other universities coming on board with the project last month.

ASA said in a statement today that the HathiTrust repository will make 27 texts open to over 250,000 students in a month's time, in breach of author copyrights.

One of the 27 texts belongs to the executive director of ASA Angelo Loukakis, who said in a statement that the orphaned books repository is "an outrageous attempt to dismiss author's rights".

"Maybe it doesn't seem like it to some, but writing books is an author's real life work and livelihood. This group of American universities have no authority to decide whether, when or how authors forfeit their copyright protection. These aren't orphan books, they're abducted books," Loukakis added.

This isn't the first time Google's book scanning push has come under fire from authors. A class-action suit against the search giant is still pending before the New York courts.

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