Available Indexes

HathiTrust Rights and Access Working Group Charge


April 2014 - May 2017

Purpose:  To promote HathiTrust's ability to provide the widest possible access to its collections within the law by establishing priorities for rights determinations and strategies for engagement with rights holders.  

Duration:  Initially one year, then assess outcomes and continued need.  


There are ongoing initiatives to broaden access to materials held by HathiTrust such as the Copyright Review Management System (CRMS) project, as well as arranged partnerships with publishers who have opened content through HathiTrust.  HathiTrust also works with individual rights holders to open access to content within the repository on a case-by-case basis.  The Rights and Access Working Group will help to develop a consistent strategy across both types of activities.

The CRMS project has, through two successful IMLS awards, engaged staff at 17 Hathi partner institutions to undertake systematic copyright determinations for works published in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.  Over 360,000 titles have been reviewed, and approximately 200,000 of these titles have been opened.   Current plans are to seek funding to extend the review process to include non-English works.  New languages and serials may require pilot projects to adjust for differences in copyright laws.  To date CRMS has been largely driven by the IMLS grants, but HathiTrust has committed $50,000 to support the development of a sustainability plan for the CRMS. 

HathiTrust has worked directly with publishers and individuals to open access to works.  We have a fairly simple method for rights holders to volunteer titles they wish to be opened, but no significant outreach or marketing of this voluntary avenue.   Several publishers, including the university presses of Michigan, Utah State, and Duke have agreed, at least in principle, to open backlist titles through HathiTrust.  We have very recently secured an agreement with Knowledge Unlatched that will include preservation and access of open access university press titles published as a part of that initiative.  Given the number of in-copyright works scanned by Google, as well as Google's partnerships with publishers as part of Google Books, there are likely significant sets of content that the membership would like to see Hathi pursue with their owners.    

There are some challenges to working with publishers and rights holders, however.  First, the lawsuits around the Book Project have not been resolved, and for some publishers there may be a lingering mistrust of the motives or approaches of Hathi.  For those who are willing to work with Hathi, the degree of openness to which they will commit may vary.  For instance, the University of Michigan press permits only page-at-a-time access, not entire chapter or title level access. In spite of the signed agreement with Google and Hathi, Duke University Press has not yet opened any backlist titles, in part because of third party rights issues.   

Both a strategy and a message for proactively reaching out to rights holders would be helpful.

Although rights determinations and engagement and negotiation with rights holders are very different activities, a well-coordinated strategy for extending access to the corpus can accommodate both types of work.

Reporting and Working Relationships:

The Rights and Access Working Group reports to the Program Steering Committee through an assigned liaison. Coordination with the work of the Collections Committee is provided through an individual serving as a member of both groups. 


  • Become familiar with previous work to open access to HathiTrust materials.
  • Support sustainability planning for the CRMS project.
  • Clarify priorities for copyright review of specific materials, such as serials, state documents, and publications in specific languages. May propose pilot studies to assess feasibility of these reviews.
  • Develop a strategy for engaging rights holders to encourage them to open access to their materials.  Working with the Collections Committee, identify sets or collections of publications to target for inclusion.
  • Develop criteria to evaluate potential open access publishing partnerships.
  • Elaine L Westbrooks, Associate University Librarian for Research, University of Michigan (Chair)
  • Kyle Courtney, Copyright Advisor, Harvard University
  • Sharon Farb, Associate University Librarian for Collection Management and Scholarly Communication, UCLA
  • Joseph Hafner, Associate Dean, Collection Services, McGill University
  • Melissa Levine, Lead Copyright Officer, University of Michigan
  • Monica McCormick, Program Officer for Digital Scholarly Publishing, New York University