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Re: Hathi Orphans?
- To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Subject: Re: Hathi Orphans?
- From: Alex Holzman <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 27 Oct 2011 19:23:37 EDT
- Reply-to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sender: email@example.com
David, For books a publisher originally published and retains rights, it's easy a) to tell you we hold the rights and b) to tell you if it's ok to digitize or not. For books on which we relinquished rights decades ago and have lost contact with the author/agent/estate, then it's not that we don't want to help, it's that we don't have the staff resources to start hunting down the current rights holder. And really, if you want to start a mass-digitization project, then it's your responsibility to track down rights, not somebody else's. Publishers can't speak for those people and we also can't change laws dictating that the book in question remains in copyright. I am continually astonished at what seems to be a de facto assumption that presses have people sitting around with nothing to do who can thus be assigned to laborious tasks that offer no contribution to the viability of the organization. I will concede that publishers who may or may not own the rights to books long ago published by companies they later acquired do have a responsibility to establish whether or not they continue to hold rights. But it's a slog and needs to be accomplished on a schedule that the publisher defines as appropriate to its own operations, not the wants of parties who want them to do so as a public good (we all decide ourselves when and how to engage in charitable activities). And again, if the establish that rights were relinquished, they have no way of knowing who the rightsholder is today for a book they may have let go many, many years ago. That said, I also don't know how somebody (eg, a mass digitizer) seeking rights figures out what current publisher might own rights for books that have passed through four or five rounds of mergers and acquisitions. So far as I know there's no central place to discover, for example, who owns Appleton Century books today. That would be a useful resource, but who would put it together and how they would do so? Heck, I don't even know who holds rights to the still-in-print books published my first employer some forty years ago (Dodd, Mead). In short, anyone who thinks straightening all this out is either easy or cheap--or who thinks most publishers have the resources to tackle it in the face of all else going on right now--is engaged in a bit of self-delusion. An agency like CCC no doubt can help, but it would be unreasonable to expect them to do more than they deem manageable. And it wouldn't be unreasonable for them to charge a fee to conduct these searches. Copyright's messy and hard. I expect we can all agree the laws--both international and domestic to US--need changing. But in the meantime it's just not realistic to expect publishers to bear the burden for groups who want to digitize collections of books. My two cents, Alex Alex Holzman Director Temple University Press Email: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.temple.edu/tempress