May 26, 2022

Harvard Library Lifts Restrictions on Digital Reproductions of Works in the Public Domain

From the Harvard Library Office of Scholarly Communication:

The Harvard Library is pleased to announce a new policy on the use of digital reproductions of works in the public domain. When the Library makes such reproductions and makes them openly available online, it will treat the reproductions themselves as objects in the public domain. It will not try to restrict what users can do with them, nor will it grant or deny permission for any use. For more detail, see the policy FAQ.


Said Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication and director of the Harvard Open Access Project, “We were inspired by pioneering policies to this effect at Cornell University Library and Yale University. We were also fortunate to have the prime mover of the Cornell policy, Peter Hirtle, at Harvard. I’m proud that Harvard is removing obstacles to research and education, and taking this extra step to share the wealth of its extraordinary collections with the world.”

Sarah E. Thomas, Vice President for the Harvard Library and the Roy E. Larsen Librarian of Harvard College, expressed strong support for the policy change.  “We have already been using the digitization of Harvard’s collections as a means of enhancing access for Harvard’s students and faculty,” she said.  “Now we are seeking to share Harvard’s unparalleled collections with the rest of the world in ways that will foster new creativity.”

The Harvard Library Board adopted the policy late last month. The Library will update its web sites to reflect the new policy during the remainder of the present academic year.

Read the Complete Announcement Along With More Open Access Week News

Direct to Harvard Library Digital Collections

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.