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Re: Hathi Orphans?

It's not that many of these older books are true "orphans," 
David, it's rather that older contracts often did not contain 
clauses covering digital rights, or that all rights were reverted 
to the authors and the presses haven't bothered to keep track of 
them.  Why would they? They never anticipated ever wanting to 
bring these books back into print, and they hadn't dreamed of a 
world with scanners and POD.

The work of acquiring digital rights and tracking down authors to 
whom rights were reverted is not necessarily difficult, but it 
can suck up a lot of time and energy, and the ROI to be realized 
from bringing these older titles back into "print" (or 
"commercial availability," as we call it these days) is seldom 
great enough to make this a top priority for presses when there 
are so many other things to be done.

I feel confident, though, that if libraries offered to presses on 
their campuses to research these issues and do the legwork and 
negotiating with authors once located, in exchange for the right 
to digitize them as part of a mass digitization project, the 
presses would be happy to oblige. Then they could benefit from 
some small incremental revenue from supplying POD editions, which 
they might even share with the libraries. (This is the 
arrangement that Penn State Press has with the Libraries for its 
Metalmark digital reprint series.)

if the libraries want to just go ahead and digitize these older 
works without doing and such research and simply use an opt-out 
procedure if anyone objects to the posting, my guess is that the 
presses would not stand in their way, but would also want to bear 
no legal liability themselves for any financial losses that might 
result from infringement suits brought against the university.

Sandy Thatcher

At 6:47 PM -0400 10/26/11, David Prosser wrote:
>I think that part of the problem and frustration for those who
>wish to digitise is that there appear to be two positions coming
>from the publishing community.
>The first is, crudely, 'We have no idea whether we own the
>copyright to all these old titles and there is no financial
>benefit to us in finding out'.
>The second is, equally crudely, 'How dare you steal our precious
>property from us.  If we're going to allow this then we need
>Now it may be perfectly legal and moral to hold both views
>simultaneously, but it doesn't help if you're planning a
>mass-digitisation project of 20th century orphan works.  If it is
>too much trouble for publishers to check the status of works then
>let us digitise them (perhaps with suitable take-down policies).
>If these are valuable properties then help use determine who owns
>them so we can exclude them.