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Copyright. Copyright! Copyright!!

October 27, 2011

Association of Architecture School Librarians
by Barbara Opar, column editor

All we ever seem to hear about in the academic press is copyright and the intellectual property issues being raised about compliance. But, now a number of academic libraries – Cornell, Duke, Emory, Johns Hopkins, the University of California, the University of Florida, the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin are joining together to address “orphan works” in their collections and to work to make them accessible within their own institutions.

“Orphan works” are out-of-print materials, mostly books, that are still subject to copyright, but whose copyright holders cannot be identified or located despite concentrated efforts to do so.

The libraries noted above are identifying works being previously scanned and archived in the  HathiTrust Digital Library. HathiTrust is a partnership of more than fifty major research institutions (and growing) working to share, archive and preserve their combined collections of digitized books and journals. The HathiTrust has collected and organized over nine million volumes, a high percentage of which fall into the category of “orphan works”.

The institutional members are committed to a careful review of copyright for any titles before making them available digitally. Members must also own print copies of the titles and restrict access to members of their respective communities. Online access is authenticated by the user with their university ID and  password . 

The Orphan Works Project should improve access to a large amount of scholarly material that has been digitally unavailable due to copyright concerns. Because the Orphan Works Project limits access to members of individual institutions, it adheres to the Copyright Act’s “fair use” provision, which allows limited reproduction of works for scholarly purposes. This differs from the Google Books project which wanted to make such works accessible online without permission from copyright owners. Hence that resulting  lawsuit and subsequent issues.  This new project should be a win-win for both sides of the copyright debate. 

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