The University of Michigan Library’s Copyright Office is launching the first serious effort to identify orphan works among the in-copyright holdings of the HathiTrust Digital Library, which is funding the project.
The vast majority of HathiTrust’s holdings are in-copyright (73%). An unknown percentage of these are so-called “orphans,” that is, in-copyright works whose owners cannot be identified or located. The lack of hard data on the number of orphans in the corpus is a significant impediment to the creation of a legal or policy-based framework that would allow scholars and researchers to access these works.
In a paper recently published by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), John Wilkin, Executive Director of HathiTrust, extrapolates from known statistics about the corpus, and speculates that the majority of works published since 1923 may in fact be orphans