August 29, 2011
Duke, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and Emory To Offer Orphan Works Electronically
I wrote at the end of June about the decision by the University of Michigan Libraries to give campus access to electronic versions of orphan works scanned by Google from the school’s collection. See University of Michigan To Allow Campus Access To Digital Orphan Works for more information. Paul Givler, executive director of the Association of American University Presses, was not happy with the move. The Michigan access has not been challenged so far and there are no reports of orphan works owners storming the campus with torches, pitchforks, or subpoenas.
That may or may not have encouraged what comes next. Duke University, along with Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and Emory University are about to do the same thing according to a report in the Charlotte News and Observer. The books to be made available are copies of orphan items that appear in the print collection. The plan is to post a notice about titles for 90 days. The titles will remain online if no one comes forward.
I like the idea that libraries are pushing the issue of electronic access to orphan works. Google can’t do it because the pending settlement issues concerning orphan works are unresolved. As Judge Chin rejected the last settlement, he stated that Congress needs to act to allow Google to display orphan works. Google wants to play nice with the publishers so it can’t push the issue unless all talks break down and the case actually goes to litigation.
While I can’t see a lot of pent up demand for an electronic copy of "Lecture On Bees," a 1925 title by E.R. Root, cited in the News and Observer story, I like the idea of the collective libraries’ decision to go forward with access. The source libraries are not part of the litigation. They can be independently sued by a rights holder and will defend by claiming fair use, should that happen. Universities are risk-averse by nature. The fact they are willing to do this means the university and library administrations believe fair use allows this. [MG]