Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Scanning and lending digital copies of orphan works

OCA to Scan Orphan Works; Publishers Float Orphan Works Solution, Library Journal Academic Newswire, October 25, 2007.  Excerpt:

It's beginning to look like there could be movement on orphan works in 2008 after a coalition of three professional publishing associations released the broad strokes of an understanding on their use. Separately, the Open Content Alliance said it would begin scanning some for distribution through a groundbreaking digital interlibrary loan system.

In a release last week during the Open Content Alliance's annual meeting, OCA officials said the Boston Public Library, the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, and Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala City, in conjunction with the Internet Archive, would scan works that were out-of-print but in-copyright and pioneer "a digital interlibrary loan service" around them. "We believe this can be a tremendously valuable way to increase scholarly and public access to hard-to-find resources," OCA officials noted in a statement. "For every librarian who has received a request for a book that is out-of-print (as opposed to out-of-stock), this initiative will provide a mechanism to meet the library patron's needs." The announcement marks a departure of sorts, as the OCA has thus far stuck to scanning materials in the public domain or works with permission.

On the O'Reilly Radar blog, the University of California's Peter Brantley called the announcement "noteworthy." "[It] could be reasonably understood to be a reassertion of inter-library loan rights under the first-sale doctrine," he said. Brantley praised the idea, suggesting it would allow librarians to offer access to millions of orphan works currently collecting dust under "restrained but eminently useful" terms, although the devil, he conceded, is clearly in the details, including engineering "technical and policy systems which acceptably minimize risk of digital abuse."

Professional and scholarly publishers meanwhile issued a release of their own this week stating their current position on orphan works. The draft statement [from the the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers and the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division] outlines an emerging consensus among publishers that users who conduct a reasonably "diligent" copyright search would be subject only to "a normal license fee and will not be subject to any statutory, punitive or special fees or damages," should a copyright holder later emerge. The statement also put forth publisher's contention that "a private solution," as opposed to government intervention through legislation was the best course of action....