HathiTrust Book Scanning Ruled Fair Use

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s decision that two of the three uses of copyrighted works by the HathiTrust Digital Library (HDL) are fair uses.  The three uses are full text search, access to the print-disabled and preservation.  Categorizing these uses as “fair uses” runs contrary to true fair use, according to Professor Jane C. Ginsburg.  My post, True Fair Use Is About Authorship and Nothing Else, further describes Professor Ginsburg’s position.  I agree with Professor Ginsburg that the uses upheld by the Second Circuit have nothing to do with authorship.  However, these uses benefit society and would not be allowed to continue if they weren’t found to be fair uses.  The greater question becomes how far should we extend copyright protection to benefit society when the legal analysis undertaken by the court doesn’t make sense from a legal theory point of view.

The HDL contains over ten million works contributed by colleges, universities and other nonprofit institutions.  The HathiTrust began in 2008, when thirteen universities agreed to allow Google to electronically scan their book collections and create a repository for the digital copies of the scanned works.  Authors and authors’ associations sued HathiTrust for copyright infringement.  The Second Circuit ruled that because third parties cannot file suit on behalf of authors under the Copyright Act, author associations based in the U.S. do not have standing to bring this suit.  Only the copyright owner can enforce the copyright.  Foreign author associations do have standing, though, and the Second Circuit proceeded with its analysis on that basis.  The Second Circuit did not discuss the standing of the individual author plaintiffs.

Continue reading “HathiTrust Book Scanning Ruled Fair Use”

Spank Author’s Estate Whacks Music Publishers on Appeal

This case centers on rights to the musical composition “Spank.”  Ronald Louis Smith, Sr. wrote Spank in the late 1970s.  Smith’s estate later sent a cease and desist letter to one of the music publishers and filed copyright grant termination notices.  Smith’s estate followed up by suing the music publishers and others in federal court.  The Eleventh Circuit faced this question:  Can the author of a musical composition rely on the registration filed by the publisher for standing to sue under the Copyright Act, when the author assigned his rights in the sound recording to a different publisher in exchange for royalties, but that agreement is silent regarding the ownership of the musical composition rights?  The Eleventh Circuit ruled that, yes, the author does have standing to sue under such circumstances and reversed the district court’s ruling.

Continue reading “Spank Author’s Estate Whacks Music Publishers on Appeal”