Orphan Works Project

Education
11:32 am
Tue September 20, 2011

U of M halts book digitization project after copyright questions surface

The University of Michigan admits to committing some serious errors in its project to digitize books whose copyright holders cannot be identified or contacted.

U of M officials have stopped their "Orphan Works Project" five days after a lawsuit was filed against the university, according to AnnArbor.com:

a lawsuit filed by the Authors Guild and two other literary guilds, one Canadian and the other Australian, maintains that many works deemed orphans by U-M have living authors or author relatives that still claim copyright rights but do not know about the digitization project.

Aside from U-M, four other HathiTrust participating schools were named in the lawsuit: The University of California, the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, and Cornell University.

The HathiTrust is a a partnership between dozens of research institutions and libraries "working to ensure that the cultural record is preserved and accessible long into the future."

The University of Michigan digitizes all the material that is ingested into the HathiTrust.

The University of Michigan Library issued a statement on the Orphan Works Project explaining their decision to halt the project:

The close and welcome scrutiny of the list of potential orphan works has revealed a number of errors, some of them serious. This tells us that our pilot process is flawed.

Having learned from our mistakes—we are, after all, an educational institution—we have already begun an examination of our procedures to identify the gaps that allowed volumes that are evidently not orphan works to be added to the list.

University officials say "once we create a more robust, transparent, and fully documented process, we will proceed with the work."