Legal Issues in Mass Digitization: A Preliminary Analysis and Discussion Document

The Copyright Office has published a Preliminary Analysis and Discussion Document that addresses the issues raised by the intersection between copyright law and the mass digitization of books. The purpose of the Analysis is to facilitate further discussions among the affected parties and the public – discussions that may encompass a number of possible approaches, including voluntary initiatives, legislative options, or both. The Analysis also identifies questions to consider in determining an appropriate policy for the mass digitization of books.


Public discourse on mass digitization is particularly timely. On March 22, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected a proposed settlement in the copyright infringement litigation regarding Google's mass book digitization project. The court found that the settlement would have redefined the relationship between copyright law and new technology, and it would have encroached upon Congress's ability to set copyright policy with respect to orphan works. Since then, a group of authors has filed a lawsuit against five university libraries that participated in Google's mass digitization project. These developments have sparked a public debate on the risks and opportunities that mass book digitization may create for authors, publishers, libraries, technology companies, and the general public. The Office's Analysis will serve as a basis for further policy discussions on this issue.