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Help - Copyright

Why is access to some items restricted?

Many works in our collection are protected by copyright law, so we cannot ordinarily publicly display large portions of those protected works unless we have permission from the copyright holder. Where we have the right to show page images of works, we will make every effort to do so. We are currently displaying works that are in the public domain (such as US works published before 1923), uncopyrightable works (such as works of the US government), or works where we have permission from the copyright holder. If we cannot determine the copyright or permission status of a work, we restrict access to that work until we can establish its status.

Because of differences in international copyright laws, access is also restricted for users outside the United States to works published outside the United States after 1873. See "What are the different Copyright statuses of items in HathiTrust, and what do they mean?" below for more information about this restriction.

Please use the feedback form at the top of each page to let us know if our records are incorrectly restricting access to an item. For more information, see the page on HathiTrust Rights Management and the Access and Use Policy.

Will access to restricted material be available in the future?

Some works that are currently restricted may in fact be in the public domain. We have begun the task of investigating works published between 1923 and 1963 that were determined by initial automated methods to be in copyright. Whenever we can determine a particular work is in the public domain we will provide full access to it. In addition, if we receive permission from rights-holders to display the full-text, we will provide full access to those works. If you have information about the rights status of any of our restricted texts, please contact us using the feedback form at the top of each page.

Can I contact you with author death date information in order to open a work? What sources are considered authoritative?

Yes! You can contact us with information about an author's date of death to help us make copyright determinations. If you have information about the death date of the creator of a work (author, artist, photographer, illustrator, etc.), please send us the following information:

Below are some reliable resources for establishing death dates. We welcome suggestions for other resources. Keep in mind that the determination of a book's copyright status may extend to considerations in addition to the author's death date.

Commonly used death date resources for the CRMS-World research on English, Australian and Canadian authors are:

Other death date resources recommended by the Library of Congress are found in this report: Search Strategies for Finding British Commonwealth Author Death Dates: UM CRMS Grant (pdf). Citation: The Reference Staff of the Humanities and Social Sciences Division, Library of Congress. Prepared for the University of Michigan Library Staff, December 7, 2011.

Other typically acceptable resources include:

  • Newspaper obituaries like from the London Times
  • Obituaries or remembrances from an association or trade journal (typically found through ProQuest Research Library, JSTOR, or GoogleBooks
  • World Biographical Information System (WBIS)
  • Association, company, or university websites with detailed historical pages about their institution. Association, company, or university websites with detailed historical pages about their institution
  • Published biographical dictionaries">Published biographical dictionaries
  • Notices in the book preface indicating the author's death (i.e. "the late Mr. Smith")
  • a.k.a. (pseudonyms)
  • AskArt
  • Union List of Artists Online (Getty Research)

Can I get special permission to see restricted material?

If you are a student at the University of Michigan with a disability that does not allow you to use printed books, special text versions of HathiTrust materials can be made available to you. Please see the Services for Students with Disabilities website for more information. HathiTrust is currently working on expanding these services to students at other institutions. We cannot otherwise make exceptions for viewing online copyrighted material. Physical copies can be viewed at the library that holds the original. Physical copies may also be borrowed through interlibrary loan arrangements with your local library.

Is it possible to obtain a digital or print copy of work in HathiTrust that I hold the rights to?

Yes. There are two ways to do this:

1. Via HathiTrust

Rights holders can make their works publicly available in HathiTrust using our permissions agreement. The agreement includes options that allow rights holders to assign Creative Commons licenses to their works or allow their works to be printed on demand if desired.

If a work in question was digitized by Google, full PDF download will only be publicly available if a Creative Commons license is assigned. You can determine if a work was digitized by Google by searching for it on Google Books. We can also assist in determining if a work was digitized by Google. If a Creative Commons license is not selected in the permission form for a Google-digitized work, the work will be readable online by anyone, but only members of HathiTrust partner institutions will have the ability to download a full PDF (see http://www.hathitrust.org/help_digital_library#FullPDF for further details). Please feel free to contact us at feedback@issues.hathitrust.org with any questions.

2. Via Google

Rights holders can also open works that were digitized by Google on Google Books if desired, by following the directions below:

  1. Sign up at for the Google Books Partner Program (click "Get Started"). This process will take a few minutes and will give you a special Partner Program account and interface from which you can manage how your books are shown on Google Books.
  2. When you are ready, you can use Google's support form to add library-scanned books to your account and make them available online.

What is the benefit of searching books that I'm not allowed to view due to restrictions?

Even for works that are fully protected by copyright, you can search within the text of the item to find out how many times a particular word or phrase appears. Doing so may help you decide whether you want to seek out a physical copy, or find a specific section or phrase if the physical copy is in-hand.

What are the different Copyright statuses of items in HathiTrust, and what do they mean?

HathiTrust maintains a database of every item in the Library and a corresponding rights status. Brief descriptions of the most common statuses are given below. Detailed descriptions of all statuses, with information about how they are determined and stored, are available on the HathiTrust Rights Database page.

  • Public Domain - In general, these are texts that are 1) US federal government documents 2) published in the US prior to 1923 or 3) published outside of the US before 1873. Volumes may be determined to be in the public domain for other reasons, however. See the link to the HathiTrust Rights Database page above for more information.
  • Public Domain only when viewed in the United States - Works published outside the US prior to 1923 are in the public domain; however, due to the variations in copyright law in countries outside the US, it is estimated that 1873 is the earliest date foreign works may still be under copyright. Therefore, users accessing the volume from US IP addresses will have access to the works published outside the US between 1873 and 1923; however, users with non-US IP addresses will not.
  • In-copyright - Texts that do not meet the criteria for Public Domain (e.g,. US post-1923 and not a government document) are treated as in-copyright.
  • Available to nobody; blocked for all users - Works with this status may have been deleted or access may be blocked e.g., pending a rights investigation. This is typically a temporary status while an issue is resolved.
  • Available to everyone in the world - In-copyright Works that the University of Michigan has been given permission by the copyright holder to display on a broad basis. The scope of permission granted may restrict some use, such as not allowing the sale of reprints. Please send inquiries about individual volumes to feedback@issues.hathitrust.org.
  • Undetermined copyright status - Instances where copyright status could not be determined by automatic processes from bibliographic data, copyright research is only partially complete, or an ambiguous, unclear, or otherwise time-consuming situation was encountered. Items with this status are treated as though they are in copyright.

Whom do I contact to discuss the rights status of a particular book?

Please use the feedback link at the top of each page, and we will address your questions. Any issues concerning copyright permissions for items will be addressed within a business day of notification. For more information, see the HathiTrust Take-Down Policy.


StateGovDocs

Aren't all government works in the public domain?

It depends on whether you are talking about work by employees of the federal government of the United States OR work produced by employees of an individual state. Under US Copyright law, works produced by federal employees working in the scope of their employment are not eligible for copyright protection – such works are in the public domain (see http://www.usa.gov/copyright.shtml). However, state government documents are not covered by this rule, as state governments may chose to protect their copyrights as they wish – they are presumed to be subject to copyright by the state for which they are produced. As a result, there is a patchwork of protections covering state government documents.

How do I know if a state government document is protected by copyright?

It is not always clear from examining a given state government document whether it is protected by copyright. Some documents may have a copyright notice or a Creative Commons license on them. In the absence of some kind of notice on the document, you may need to contact the department responsible for the work.

There’s a state government document in HathiTrust that I want. Can you make it available?

If you have a particular document you want to see made available, please cite to the relevant departmental or state policy governing copyright in that document and send that information to HathiTrust (use the feedback link at the top right of every page). Currently, we are beginning to systemically investigate the status of state government documents in the HathiTrust and are in the early stages of a project to make determinations about the copyright status of state government documents.

I am a state employee. How can I have my departments documents opened?

If you are a state employee with the capacity to grant permission to HathiTrust to make some or all of your department’s documents available, you can identify the documents and give us permission with the HathiTrust permissions form (see http://www.hathitrust.org/permissions_agreement). If you are unsure whether you have the authority to make such a declaration, feel free to contact us (via the feedback link or at feedback@issues.hathitrust.org) and we will help you through the process.


Golan v. Holder FAQ

What was at Issue in Golan v. Holder?

Originally filed in 2001, Golan v. Holder, originally named Golan v. Ashcroft, was a suit challenging the constitutionality of elements of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), a bill passed in 1994 in order to implement elements of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tarriffs and Trade (GATT). The section of the URAA at issue restored copyrights to foreign works published without compliance with US formalities, such as a copyright notice or registration or renewal.

The constitutional question at issue in Golan was whether restoring copyright rights to works already in the public domain was a violation of the First Amendment right to free expression, and whether the “limited times” clause of Article I Section 8 of the Constitution disallowed the restoration of lapsed or otherwise expired copyrights.

What was the decision?

In a 7-2 decision, a majority of the Supreme Court ruled against Golan, stating that Congress was well within its power to pass the URAA and restore copyrights. Writing for the majority, Justice Ginsburg stated that URAA did not violate the First Amendment or Article I Section 8, as “(n)either the Copyright and Patent Clause nor the First Amendment, we hold, makes the public domain, in any and all cases, a territory that works may never exit.”

What impact does the decision have on HathiTrust?

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Golan v. Holder has no effect on the operations of HathiTrust, or rights identification projects such as the Copyright Review Management System (CRMS) that HathiTrust partners have undertaken. Since we had been following the existing law that the plaintiffs in Golan had sought to overturn, the Courts failure to do so does not affect us in any material way at this time. Had the Court decided to overturn the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) on the other hand, the number of non-U.S. works in HathiTrust that were in the public domain would have been expanded. As it is now, our situation remains the same as it was before the ruling.

Are there longer term implications of the ruling?

Yes. While the case has no immediate impact on HathiTrust, it has significantly upset some of the basic assumptions about copyright law under which libraries have been operating. Before Golan, it was generally accepted that once a work had entered the public domain, it would remain there. While URAA did restore copyright to a class of public domain works, it was a sufficiently special case to be treated as an exception to the general principle as opposed to precedent. After Golan, it would be possible, if unlikely, for Congress to restate copyright protection to works previously understood to be in the public domain. As public domain works make up a large portion of the works in HathiTrust, this could limit the scope of the access we currently provide.