Opening Up Content in
HathiTrust: Using HathiTrust
Permissions Agreements to
Make Authors’ Work
Melissa Levine, Lead Copyright Officer, University of Michigan Library
Background note: HathiTrust is a repository based at the University of Michigan for the
digitized content of some of the nation’s great research libraries. Content is growing daily
and already contains more than 5.6 million volumes. Works in the public domain are open
to all researchers—whoever and wherever they may be. Access to materials still in copyright
is governed by copyright law and permissions granted by individual rights holders. Works
that HathiTrust partners do not have rights to make available are not made available—or are
made available under very limited circumstances, such as for certified users with disability
who need to make use of a screen reader in order to access materials. This article is about
steps put in place by the University of Michigan Library to empower authors to open up
access to the in-copyright titles that are deposited in the HathiTrust repository.
t the University of Michigan Library, efforts to maximize the
amount of legally accessible material in HathiTrust have brought
renewed attention to the options available to authors as copyright
holders of works. Many scholarly works are out of print and commercially
unavailable, thus as a practical matter a tremendous amount of information,
thought, and knowledge is unavailable to today’s scholars and students. Print
runs for monographs are expensive and historically rather small. Articles, if
available at all, are typically accessible only to those people affiliated with a
research library that can sustain expensive subscriptions and licenses.
HathiTrust seeks ways to open as much content as legally possible with an
overarching philosophy consistent with a research library’s commitment to
inquiry and concurrent needs for preservation and access, with all of their
parallel complexities. Simply, the library is looking for ways to educate scholars
RLI 269
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