Paul Courant quoted in several news sources about digitized books lawsuit

September 12, 2011

Paul Courant was quoted in several news sources about the opposition to the University of Michigan's and other universities' efforts to digitized their physical library collections, including The Associated Press, Inside Higher Ed, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

University of Michigan has led an effort to make digital copies of orphan books in its library collections available to students and faculty. ("Orphan" books are works that do not have a known authors or copyright holders.) However, several authors and authors' guilds are suing the University of Michigan and several other universities for copyright infringement. Paul Courant told the Associated Press, "I'm confident that everything we're doing and everything we're contemplating doing is lawful use of these works." The other universities named in the lawsuit include the University of California, the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, and Cornell University.

The lawsuit plaintiffs state that the digitization of the books violates Fair Use legislation, which states a book can only be digitized if the physical book is poor quality. Courant countered this claim by stating that Fair Use classroom policies should also apply to libraries to allow students to digitally access books already within the library's physical collections. Courant also maintains that the digitization process is meant to proactively preserve collections. "We're preserving with them, but we are not displaying them unless the physical copies actually are falling apart," Courant said to Inside Higher Ed.