NFB applauds landmark court ruling

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) on October 11 applauded a decision issued on October 10, 2012, by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which permits the distribution of millions of books to blind and print-disabled people. The ruling in Authors Guild, Inc., et al., v. HathiTrust, et al. (Case number: No. 11-cv-6351-HB) held that providing access for students with print disabilities constitutes a “transformative use” under the fair use provision of the Copyright Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act and that Section 121 of the Copyright Act (the “Chafee Amendment”) permits university libraries to digitize their collections for distribution and use by people who are blind.  As a result, the University of Michigan will now be permitted to make its entire 10 million volume digital collection available to Americans who are blind, revolutionizing access to digital books by people with print disabilities.

The ruling is part of the court’s decision to grant the NFB’s and HathiTrust’s motions for summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild against the HathiTrust, a repository of several university library collections scanned by Google, and participating universities.  The Authors Guild alleged the HathiTrust and universities violated the Copyright Act by engaging in mass digitization of their collections.  Because these works represent the largest collection of works accessible to people who are blind and print disabled, the NFB intervened in the lawsuit.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Access to the printed word has historically been one of the greatest challenges faced by people who are blind.  The landmark decision by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York will revolutionize access to books for people who are blind.  For the first time ever, blind students and scholars will have the opportunity to participate equally in library research.  The blind, just like the sighted, will have a world of education and information at their fingertips.  NFB commends the court’s decision, which constitutes a significant step toward full and equal access to information by people who are blind.”