The schools partnered with Google to digitize millions of books, including out-of-print and orphan works, books whose writers could not be located. Among the seven million scans schools obtained from Google were works by Simone de Beauvoir, Italo Calvino, Gunter Grass, Herta Muller, and Haruki Murakami. The digitization project was designed to allow students and university staff access to scholarly and other works, the schools claim.
The lawsuit centers on one such project at the University of Michigan, the HathiTrust repository. The suing authors say the scans the schools received from Google were copyright-protected and the scans themselves were unauthorized. And the lawsuit calls the digitization, copying, archiving, and publishing of the works “one of the largest copyright infringements in history.” According to the suit, the schools’ "not only violate the exclusive rights of copyright holders to authorize the reproduction and distribution of their works but, by creating at least two databases connected to the internet that store millions of digital copies of copyrighted books, the universities risk the widespread, unauthorized and irreparable dissemination of those works.”