Good news! In a decision that is likely to help shape the future of online fair use, a federal court in New York has concluded that digitizing books in order to enhance research and to provide access to print-disabled individuals is lawful.
The case is The Authors Guild, Inc. v. Hathitrust, the lesser-known but faster-moving stepsister to the Authors Guild's long-running lawsuit against Google for its Google Book Search service. For the past seven years, major university libraries have been collaborating with Google to digitize their collections, with one result being the creation of the HathiTrust Digital Library (HDL). Via the HDL, more than 60 university and research libraries can store, secure, and search their digital collections. Most library patrons aren't allowed to access the digitized books in their entirety – HDL merely does a keyword search and delivers titles and page numbers as results. This enables users either to find the book at a library or to purchase a copy, but HDL itself doesn't take the place of book sales for the general public. HDL does allow access of the entire books to blind or other print-disabled individuals.