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Re: Hathi Orphans

Of interest from the Chronicle of Higher Education


HathiTrust Acknowledges Flaws in Handling 'Orphan Works'

September 16, 2011, 2:04 pm

By Jennifer Howard

Faced with criticism over how it identifies 'orphan works,' the 
HathiTrust digital repository acknowledged that its procedure is 
'flawed' and said it was working to fix the problems before it 
makes those works more widely available. A work is considered an 
orphan if it's subject to copyright but its owner can't be 
identified or found.

HathiTrust planned to release the first batch of books in its 
Orphan Works Project next month. Access would still be limited to 
users of the repository's partner libraries, and rights holders 
would still be free to claim ownership.

John Wilkin, the trust's executive director, said the project 
will proceed once his group has ironed out the identification 
procedure. Mr. Wilkin also said that the decision was not a 
response to a lawsuit filed on Monday by the Authors Guild.

The guild, together with two foreign writers groups and eight 
individual authors, is suing HathiTrust and five universities 
over the fate of millions of scanned works in the repository. The 
plaintiffs said that they were worried about the security of the 
files, and that HathiTrust and its partners had engaged in 
unauthorized scanning and distribution of that material.

This week, the authors' group also announced on its blog that it 
had found the rights holders of several books included on 
HathiTrust's initial list of orphan-works candidates.

Describing the guild as sounding 'gleeful' in its posts, James 
Grimmelman, an associate professor at New York Law School, said 
on his own blog that the guild's experiment had cast serious 
doubt on HathiTrust's procedures. The results demonstrate 'that 
HathiTrust's orphan-tagging workflow cannot be relied on to 
identify genuinely orphan works with sufficient confidence to be 
usable,' he wrote in a post called 'HathiTrust Single-Handedly 
Sinks Orphan Works Reform.'

HathiTrust said it took the criticisms seriously and would 
proceed with the Orphan Works Project once it had addressed them. 
'The close and welcome scrutiny of the list of potential orphan 
works has revealed a number of errors, some of them serious,' it 
said in its statement. 'Once we create a more robust, 
transparent, and fully documented process, we will proceed with 
the work, because we remain as certain as ever that our proposed 
uses of orphan works are lawful and important to the future of 
scholarship and the libraries that support it.'