May 20, 2022

Paul Courant, U. of Michigan University Librarian & HathiTrust Comment on Orphan Works Lawsuit

1. Statement from Paul Courant, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries

“As a research university, we are a community of authors, and we have deep respect for copyright law and for the rights and interests of authors. Our digitization efforts simply reflect the library’s continuing legacy of prudence in curating the world’s scholarly and cultural record.

“Until the complaint, we had been engaged in what we thought was civil discourse with the Authors Guild (and other parties) about the Orphan Works Project. We had hoped that they would bring their resources to bear to aid us in locating copyright holders — which remains the primary goal of the project — in order to reduce the number of potential orphan works.


“We are disappointed by the Guild’s actions and words, but remain confident that are own actions are not only lawful, but also ethical and indeed even noble.”

Read All of Paul Courant’s Statement

2. HathiTrust Statement on Authors Guild, Inc. et al. v. HathiTrust et al.

The way in which the HathiTrust partners share this particular collection is guided by a deep and abiding respect for intellectual property and US copyright law, particularly Sections 107 and 108, which help define how libraries may lawfully share their collections. While the law does not specifically address orphan works, we are certain that our scholarly purpose, along with our careful methodology in determining whether these works have a market or an extant copyright holder who can be contacted, make this sharing legal. Sharing, by the way, which is limited to online reading by our faculty and students in the United States, and one-page-at-a-time downloads; not, as the Guild complaint states, worldwide availability and full PDF downloads.

It is worth noting that the Authors’ Guild complaint propagates a common but incorrect assumption that all US works published between 1923-1963 are in copyright. Our Copyright Review Managment System has reviewed nearly 200,000 of these works, and found more than 50% of them to be in the public domain. The same will be true of many works published outside of the United States. How many among the 7 million volumes that they wish to sequester might also be in fact works that no one—including the plaintiffs—has the right to restrict from the public?

Read All of the HathiTrust Statement

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.