Troubles with Copyright

Copyright can be a very hard thing to deal with not just in digitizing your collections.  It is very costly if you find yourself in litigation and many libraries don’t want to deal with/challenge copyright because of this.  Many libraries don’t have the funds do deal with copyright challenges so they may not be willing to digitize materials that aren’t in the public domain, though even works in the public domain aren’t necessarily safe.  There are companies out there who make copyright claims on works that should be in the public domain or orphan works, but most people/organizations out there won’t fight them on it because of the time and money that goes into copyright litigation.  Alongside claims on works in the public domain these companies also make false claims on things that aren’t even theirs.

With all of the ridiculousness of copyright claims and how expensive it is, it’s no wonder only a few organizations are doing it.  Organizations like the DPLA and HathiTrust have the funds to combat copyright claims on materials they digitize.  Then we have a company like Google who really doesn’t care about copyright claims at all.  Their stance is, “We are Google, we do what we want.”  They are a for profit company that is worth billions of dollars so a few copyright claims worth a million or two isn’t anything to them, see this article.  (A side note, a billion is a large number, like a huge number.  If you were to count to billion when you reached 1,000,000,000 you would be 32 years older.  Google is worth about $200 billion.)

#1-Do you think groups like Hathitrust and DPLA will inspire other libraries to be bolder regarding digitization moving forward?

Sadly I don’t think Hathitrust and DPLA will inspire libraries to take on copyright head on, which would ultimately cause copyright reform, but I do think libraries know what groups like those do are doing to lessen the penalties of a copyright claim so they bolster their own agendas.  As for now I think many libraries who digitize play it safe and only digitize materials that they are 100% sure are public domain, which is a shame because it stifles their collections and limits how great they could be.

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One response to “Troubles with Copyright

  1. I think libraries only “play it safe” when they are dealing with works and items that are associated with large and powerful content providers. And many digital libraries and archives are willing to risk posting orphan works or works not associated with a publisher. For the Freedom Summer project that the WHS is working on http://content.wisconsinhistory.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15932coll2 only half of the copyright holders could be contacted for permission. But because these documents are not associated with for profit publishers the WHS is willing to take the risk.

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