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RE: Re. Hathi Orphans?
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- Subject: RE: Re. Hathi Orphans?
- From: "Anthony Watkinson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2011 21:24:15 EDT
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This is just a footnote to Sandy's excellent note. My experience of scholarly contracts in the UK is that the rights were not actually reverted automatically when the book was declared OP but authors could ask for reversion i.e. the onus was on the authors to ask for the rights. The fact that this was the case in another jurisdiction or in the case of at least some publishers struck me as one defect from a publishers viewpoint in the original Google settlement under the terms of which (if I remember correctly) the assumption was that rights were in author hands when the book was OP. Anthony -----Original Message----- From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Sandy Thatcher Sent: 14 October 2011 00:39 To: email@example.com Subject: Re: Re. Hathi Orphans? The reality is that, until digitization came along, publishers generally reverted rights to authors for book that went out of print and no longer had any interest in their copyright status or ownership. In that era, publishers had an interest only in "orphan works" they wanted to reproduce portions of beyond fair use, and they had no systematic interest in researching the status of orphan works beyond those whose rights owners they had a need to track down. One complication during that era is that some publishers were merged into others, or went out of business, and the ownership status of works whose copyrights had not been reassigned to authors before the merger or closure sometimes ended up being murky. The advent of digital printing in for the form of POD, together with the creation of the "long tail" enabled by Google, changed everything early in this new millennium. Publishers no longer had much incentive to revert rights because, technically, no book ever needed to go "out of print." In fact, some publishers tried to have reverted rights re-transferred to them again, so that they could reissue books as e-books and/or in POD editions. Those works for which the ownership status was murky required research by publishers to determine if they had the necessary rights to reprint them via POD or issue them in electronic form (older contracts not having anticipated such a possibility). This changed situation gave publishers new incentives to investigate the status not only of works owned by third parties they wished to use but works on their own backlists whose ownership status was unclear. So, for the first time, publishers had a good reason to do the necessary research more systematically than ever before. Some publishers that own rights to older works but don't want to invest the money in digitize them are happy to have libraries or other institutions do this work in exchange for allowing them to be distributed open access. This is what the University of California Press started doing a while ago through the California Digital Library and what such presses as Duje and Pitt have done more recently. Still, it takes sometimes a considerable amount of effort to determine whether a work is truly an "orphan" and many understaffed and underfunded presses cannot afford to make this a high priority. It is, in my opinion, therefore a welcome development that some well-funded entity like the HathiTrust should engage in this effort. Only it is imperative that the research is done thoroughly and well, as the embarrassing revelations from the Authors Guild have shown HT's process not to be yet. Sandy Thatcher