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Book News: Appeals Court Rules Digital Library Doesn't Violate Copyright Law

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • A U.S. appeals court says a digital library of more than 10 million scanned and searchable texts amounts to "fair use," ruling against a group of authors who claimed copyright infringement. The HathiTrust Digital Library is a database of books that universities have allowed Google to scan without authors' consent. Although the books can't be read by the general public without permission, they can be searched for keywords — a function used, for example, by researchers looking at word patterns and frequencies. The court upheld the 2012 ruling of Judge Harold Baer, who wrote that HathiTrust is an "invaluable contribution to the progress of science and cultivation of the arts." NPR's Lynn Neary reported Tuesday that the case "hinged on copyright law and provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act," because the library allows people who have disabilities that prevent them from reading printed books to access the digital works in alternative forms.
  • Eric Hill, author and illustrator of a series of children's books about a playful yellow puppy named Spot, died at age 86 "after a short illness," according to his publisher. Hill's Spot the Dog series has sold more than 60 million copies worldwide. "Spot has entertained and educated generations of preschoolers, a fact that gave Eric much joy," Don Weisberg, the president of the Penguin Young Readers Group, said in a statement. "He was very fond of Spot, and we are forever grateful for his contribution to children's books." In an interview on his website, Hill said that "children all have a basic creativity which needs to be encouraged and nurtured," adding, "I wanted to acknowledge from the start that children have far more intelligence and style than many adults credit them with."
  • In advance of September's referendum on Scottish independence, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has donated £1 million pounds (about $1,675,730) to a charity opposing a split from the U.K. In a statement on her website, Rowling wrote, "This separation will not be quick and clean: it will take microsurgery to disentangle three centuries of close interdependence, after which we will have to deal with three bitter neighbors."
  • In an essay called "I Am Someone, Look At Me," the writer Karl Ove Knausgaard looks at his uncomfortable relationship with celebrity. "This childish need to be exalted, which became uglier and more pathetic the older I grew, and which, based on what I've written so far, it doesn't take a psychoanalyst to realize was nourished by shame and self-hatred, now suddenly met its opposite, for what I discovered when I began to write my first novel was that I could disappear in my writing. The self, and all the difficulties and pain associated with it, vanished."
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Annalisa Quinn
    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.