Thursday, November 08, 2012

Interesting Article on Implications of the Hathitrust Ruling

See this article, which begins:
While the verdict in the Authors Guild v. HathiTrust case has been widely hailed for its impact on how libraries can handle digitization for search, the findings on access for the print-disabled may lead to even more profound changes in practice. On an Association of Research Libraries (ARL) webcast, Daniel F. Goldstein, counsel of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), said the decision could revolutionize university services to their blind and print disabled students. LJ caught up with Goldstein to explore in more detail what the verdict means and what role university libraries might play in implementing the changes. 
According to Goldstein, up until now, many colleges and universities have re-digitized the same books over and over, on demand, for each blind or print-disabled student that needs them. It’s a process that “presupposes semesters geological ages long… I’ve talked to a blind student some years ago at Princeton who got her first materials for her microbiology class three days before the final,” Goldstein told LJ. “By the time the blind student shows up, if you haven’t already made the information available, it is too late.” Universities followed this cumbersome procedure because they weren’t sure they were legally allowed to retain the scan. 
It also meant that there wasn’t time to do anything to improve the quality beyond the minimum, because “every semester the disabilities services office is like a baby garter snake trying to swallow a chicken,” said Goldstein. “If you take Great Expectations, it’s really easy to make an accessible copy. There’s no complicated layout: Dickens didn’t use footnotes, graphs, or sidebars. But the more complex the print book is, the harder it can be to create an accessible digital copy from a print copy,” Goldstein explained. Tagging of illustrations, for example, must be done by hand. 
Now that the HathiTrust verdict has held that digitizing works for the purpose of providing access to the blind and print-disabled is not only a fair but a transformative use, schools can feel safer hanging onto those scans until the next student who needs them comes along, and can spend their efforts on improving them or scanning more books, instead of doing the same bare minimum of texts over and over. And Goldstein believes making the text available to sighted persons to crowdsource the manual work would also be fair use.

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