Denise Troll Covey
Associate University Librarian for Arts, Archives, and Technology
Carnegie Mellon University
Although 95 percent of the books ever published are still in copyright, only 3 percent of them are still in print, which means that 92 percent of the world’s published works are neither generating revenue for copyright holders nor easily accessible to potential readers. During the period when U.S. copyright required renewal, fewer than 15% of copyrights were renewed. Clearly most books are abandoned within 28 years of publication. Academic books seem to be abandoned much more quickly because they typically go out of print within three years. Nevertheless, copyright law prohibits digitizing and providing open access to these materials without permission from the copyright holder that has abandoned them. This state of affairs is significantly impeding the creation of a digital library of books that could enhance student learning and faculty research, and address worldwide disparities in library collection size and accessibility.
This project briefing will describe three studies conducted by Carnegie Mellon University Libraries to acquire permission to provide open access to copyrighted books on the surface Web. The first study, a random sample feasibility study in 2000-2001, secured an overall success rate of 22%, alhough the success rate varied significantly by publisher type. The second study, currently ongoing, seeks to acquire permission to digitize and provide open access to a collection of fine and rare books. Different strategies for negotiating with publishers in this study have yielded an overall success rate to date of 56% with a transaction cost of $37 per title. The third and largest study is an attempt to acquire copyright permission to include 500,000 copyrighted books in the million-book collection being produced by the international Million Book Project.
Research in Seeking Copyright Permission for Open Access