You can read all about The Writers' Union decision to join the suit in their press release here.
Here are a few choice quotes for those in a hurry:
The defendant universities have pooled the unauthorized scans of an estimated 7 million copyright-protected books, the rights to which are held by authors worldwide, into an online repository called HathiTrust. In June, the University of Michigan, which oversees HathiTrust, announced plans to permit unlimited downloads by its students and faculty members of "orphaned" books (some consider works whose rights-owners cannot be found after a diligent search to be "orphans").
After a quick Google search, the Author's Guild was able to find a number of the so-called "orphans" who were about to have their property expropriated by the HathiTrust, including Mr. Salamanca.
"How is it they couldn't find Jack Salamanca?" asked literary agent John White, who has represented the author for more than ten years. "He's a bestselling novelist, he's lived in suburban Maryland for decades, he's in the University of Maryland's current online catalog as an emeritus professor, and he signed an e-book agreement for "Lilith" four weeks ago. It boggles the mind."
"These are major, well-funded U.S. research institutions capable of great things," said Greg Hollingshead, Chair of The Writers' Union of Canada. "They could have found most of these authors had they cared to, but it seems they didn't. They just wanted to release e-books for free. They don't take literary property rights seriously, so why should any of us trust their security measures? If they're hacked, and digital files of 40,000 Canadian books are released, how are Canadian authors ever again to receive significant revenues from those works?"Here in Canada, we are often told by the advocates of broad free use of copyrighted materials at universities that our established collective licensing system is too expensive and too difficult to implement. Now we cultural workers are also, apparently, too difficult to find... even when we live right next door.
Bring out yer dead!