This article from a University of California digital librarian describing efforts from the New York Public Library is a wonderful counterpoint to the huffery and puffery from the Internet Archive. The NYPL is actually doing the hard work of complying with the law and working with creators and rightsholders, and innovating on everyone’s behalf along the way, while also managing to digitize and lend legally a corpus of works.
Renata Ewing writes: “NYPL’s approach is to work collaboratively with authors and publishers to secure licenses to permit patrons to access in-copyright out-of-print works without impacting the commercial value of those titles. While getting licenses from both the authors and the publishers requires herculean time and effort on the part of NYPL, the approach is unlikely to be subject to infringement lawsuits and the potential slings and arrows of judicial rulings, or to be dependent on Congress to change (or further define) copyright law. And if successful, it will be a boon for scholars and researchers who cannot come in person to libraries to view these out-of-print titles in person.”
Of particular note is their “University Press Backlist Pilot Project,” which is currently “in the proof of concept state.” The idea is to “seek blanket agreements from publishers to allow NYPL to make their entire backlist available online. In exchange, NYPL would provide publishers with the circ data for each title and digital copies of the books. This way, the publisher would be informed if an older title became commercially viable. If a book did prove to be popular enough to warrant a new publication, NYPL would remove access (or purchase a commercial license). To make sure they had all bases covered, NYPL would also seek licenses from the authors under the assumption that either the author or the publisher (or both) must retain the copyright. This path would ensure NYPL had the required permission.”
They are in discussions with University of South Carolina Press, University of Massachusetts Press, MIT Press, and the University of Michigan Press “about obtaining a license for NYPL to digitize and allow access to volumes on their backlists. So far, the results look promising. If the pilot proves successful, NYPL hopes to expand the project to include other presses and publishers.”