GBS: This Week in Your Favorite Lawsuit

  • The coalition of visual artists headlined by the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) is actively litigating its motion to intervene. The plaintiffs filed a letter objecting to the motion, and the ASMP filed a brief in reply. I’ve previously expressed skepticism about the ASMP’s motion, but I thought they got the better of this round of briefing.
  • The other remaining group of would-be intervenors—Lewis Hyde, Harry Lewis, and Nicholas Negroponte—opted instead to appeal the denial of their motion to the Second Circuit.
  • Over at the Public Index, we’ve posted the transcript of the October 7 status conference. No surprises there, but it’s useful for getting at some of the nuances of what was said.

To The United States of America C/O The Consul General of Halifax 1969 Upper Water Street, Suite 904 Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3R7

October 18, 2009

Dear America,

I am very disappointed in you, America. You are allowing – no, encouraging one of your corporate citizens to pillage the world’s literary heritage by digitizing in-copyright works without the copyright holders knowledge or authorization. I am of course referring to Google & Company –the libraries that supply Google Inc. with in-copyright works from around the world. By not holding Google & Company responsible for their copyright infringement you, by default, share the responsibility. Your “Statement of Interest” to the United States District Court, Southern District of New York (Case 1:05-cv-08136-DC; Document 720; Filed 09/18/2009) was nothing more than a “play nice” and did nothing to hold Google & Company accountable for their infringing of the copyrights of others the world over that had already occurred. In my case the “& Company” was the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. The university in partnership with Google Inc. digitized my “Fevens, a family history” in 2008 without my knowledge or consent and in fact I found out by accident that it was searchable on the world-wide-web at the ‘Google Books’ site. on May 13th of this year. Google & Company can not use the excuse that “rights holders are hard to find” in my case as I registered my copyright with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office in 2004 and they have an on-line database of copyright holders with their contact information ( ). At my insistence my book has been removed from the search results at the Google Books website. I am still waiting for a written confirmation that their copies have been destroyed. I feel that the University of Wisconsin’s partnership with Google Inc. was a commercial venture and thus voids their privilege of making a limited number of copies of in-copyright works. I have asked the university for an apology for their infringement of my copyrights to “Fevens, a family history” and a written confirmation that all their digital copies have been destroyed.
I am not against the digitization of books, as I think it is full of possibilities, but Google & Company’s program of digitizing in-copyright works without even attempting to contact the rights holder is wrong. And, saying it would be a benefit to society does not make it right. If a food bank in New York City sent cattle rustlers to Texas to get a supply of meat for their clients, it would still be theft and the food bank would still be held accountable, no matter how many people they fed.
Since the university seems unwilling to apologize and since you seem to be unwilling to hold Google & Company responsible for the infringement of my copyright, then I must ask you for the apology. I look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime if the university should happen to apologize I will of course inform you. If you would like to know more of my side the story I invite you to my Facebook page, which I call, “The University of Wisconsin, Google, & Me” at


Douglas Fevens

CC: The Honourable Geoff Regan, [ Web Link ] M.P. Halifax West 1496 Bedford Highway, Suite 222 Bedford, Nova Scotia B4A 1E5

Yesterday I received a response to the letter above. Douglas