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Ruminations on monographs, rights and freeing the public domain

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.”