Monday, September 19, 2011

Hathi Trust sued over Orphan Works Project mistake

The Chronicle of Higher Education alerts readers in a brief article dated September 14 in the Research section, "In Authors' Suit Against Libraries, an Attempt to Wrest Back Some Control Over Digitized Works," by Jennifer Howard, to a law suit filed on Sept. 12 by the Authors Guild among others against Universities of Michigan, California, Wisconsin, Indiana and Cornell and and the Hathi Trust over their Orphan Works Project. At the Authors Guild website, you can get an announcement and description of the suite along with a link to a PDF of the complaint, filed in the Southern District of New York. Apparently, the Authors Guild, joined by similar authors groups from Australia, Quebec, and the United Kingdom searched through the list of orphan works at the Hathi Trust site, and found a number that they could trace to existing authors. Rather than send corrections to the universities and Hathi Trust, which they specifically request, the authors' organizations filed suit (see the text from the University of Michigan Orphan Works page):
For Copyright Holders - We Want to Hear From You! If you are a bona fide copyright holder – or the authorized representative for a copyright holder – for a title on the Orphan Candidate list, contact us to let us know about your copyright in the book. Kindly fill out this PDF, and send it to us to help us respond as quickly as possible. We will include the copyright information in our record for the book and ask for your instruction on how and whether we may provide access to the digital version. Many copyright holders, especially scholars, are eager to make their out-of-print books available for reading in the HathiTrust. We offer that as an option for any copyright holder who wishes to do so. Copyright holders may identify themselves at any time. Even if you contact us after the 90-day period, we will honor your wishes.
(you should visit the page because the text size and layout makes the bolded text I am emphasizing here even more prominent.) On the other hand, some of the "orphan works" included in the original list were apparently ludicrously easy to link to existing authors. So to some extent, the Hathi group brought this on themselves through sloppy work. there is an article at Library Journal by David Rapp that quotes the University of Michigan released statement that argues that the flawed release of the orphan works list actually achieved the aim, though they will revisit the methods and refine them to
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.

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