Orphan works are works that are in-copyright but do not have a contactable copyright holder. They’re tricky and annoying as far as reuse goes because while technically they’re not re-usable without permission, how do you get permission? People have discussed this problem at length, but The University of Michigan’s Copyright office — the people who are working on the copyright review management system — are trying to do something about it. They launched a project to try to track down and identify the rights holders of orphan works created between 1923-1963 in the HathiTrust Digital Library. In doing so, they hope to get a general idea of the scope of the problem and at the same time develop best practices for identifying orphan works. They might also help HT make more of their content available as its copyright status is determined.
I know I’m an old-timer because when I read this post on LISNews about LII “merging” with the IPL at Drexel, my first thought was “Drexel?” I was an IPL volunteer back in 1994 or 1995 when it was still at the University of Michigan and my oldest library friends and colleagues are from there. You can see one of my early contributions on this FARQ which still gets me some email from time to time. I think of LII as blossoming under Karen Schneider’s guidance and leadership before they started doing a bad-funding tailspin and while I’m happy that the LII will continue to exist, I’m a little concerned it may lose some of its unique identity or focus. In any case, I went to the LII homepage and the IPL homepage and saw no mention of this so I guess we’ll all have to wait and see how it all shakes out.
I’m using the Library of Congress version of this photo of the reading room at the University of Michigan library (which has not made its way to Flickr yet) but I found this image via Shorpy. It’s a nice non-Flickr illustration of how having a way to have users comment on your content can increase everyone’s level of knowledge. The first comment has a link to this web site which contains another photo of the same room, highlighting the statue, and the story of what happened to it.
A little-known nifty thing about Google Books is that books already digitized via GB, whether in copyright or not, can be made available to students with visual disabilities. More inside scoop on the MBooks project at the BLT blog and at the MBooks accessibility page.
We now have a system in place for students with visual impairments to use MBooks [i.e. the digitized collection] in much the same way. Once a student registers with OSSD, any time she checks out a book already digitized by Google, she will automatically receive an email with a URL. Once the student selects the link, she is asked to login. The system checks whether the student is registered with OSSD as part of this program, and whether she has checked out this particular book. If the student passes both of those tests, she will get access to the entire full-text of the book, whether it is in copyright or not, in an interface that is optimized for use with screen readers. Currently, this system is available to UM students with visual impairments. We are investigating the possibility of including students with learning disabilities as well.
The University of Michigan has hit the “one million books scanned” milestone. As far as I know Michigan is the first library to have one million books from its own collections digitized and available for search (and, when in the public domain, available for viewing.)
For more about the scanning project generally including some insight into why people call it controversial, there’s a good long article from Campus technology (link to printable version, all on one page) which gos into the logistics of the scanning program in some depth.
When it comes down to it, then, this brave new world of book search probably needs to be understood as Book Search 1.0. And maybe participants should not get so hung up on quality that they obstruct the flow of an astounding amount of information. Right now, say many, the conveyor belt is running and the goal is to manage quantity, knowing that with time the rest of what’s important will follow. Certainly, there’s little doubt that in five years or so, Book Search as defined by Google will be very different. The lawsuits will have been resolved, the copyright issues sorted out, the standards settled, the technologies more broadly available, the integration more transparent.