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The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the Digital Library Federation (DLF) have launched a new publication series, with the inviting name of “Ruminations.”  It will feature short research papers and essays with fresh perspectives in the digital environment for scholarship and teaching.

Kicking off the launch is a new rumination from John P. Wilkin, who we interviewed not so long ago, about his work helping old titles “rise” into the public domain.

John writes us:

“I’d like to point readers to a piece I recently wrote about publication patterns and copyright status, which was just published on the CLIR website at http://www.clir.org/pubs/ruminations/01wilkin/wilkin.html.  Based on the analysis of over 5 million books in HathiTrust and several years of copyright status analysis for US 1923-1963 works, I point out some important patterns in the dates and origin of the works.  The date distributions and work Michigan has led on copyright determination helps make clear how few of these books (proportionately) are likely to be in the public domain.  On a more speculative note, the numbers lead me to conclude that ‘orphans’ may represent a startlingly high percentage of published books.  If nothing else, I hope what I show here stimulates more debate and even more work to help refine our sense of what’s in the public domain, what’s in copyright, what’s likely to be an orphan, and what the consequences of these numbers is.”

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Conducted by Mary Minow and Eli Edwards, at ALA Midwinter Meeting in San Diego, California

Minow: Tell us about this major new step forward in the quest for open access.

Julia Blixrud: A part of the background for this effort was an author rights addendum that came out of work several years ago by SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. We worked with lawyers to develop a legal instrument that modifies the publisher’s agreement and allows authors to keep key rights to their articles.  How could authors amend their agreements to allow them to use their own work in the way they wanted to?

Ivy Anderson: That was for an individual author, which is different from content licensing.

Blixrud: At the time, we thought the best way to be able to get our authors’ content made freely accessible in libraries was for authors to say, “oh, wait I ought to retain some of my rights in order to be able to deposit and use my work in my environment.”

You see, a lot of authors get an agreement from a publisher and they just automatically sign it without reading it. The agreement basically says, we the publisher have all rights to do whatever we want with this article in perpetuity.

Which means that if you’re the author, and you want to reuse your own work, you may have to get permission.

Blixrud: Get permission, or pay some fees … and no one at your institution can do anything with your stuff either, unless they bought it and paid fees and so on.

The author addendum was the first attempt to get that content opened up and made available to the author herself as well as to the institution.

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