January 26, 2022

HathiTrust’s Copyright Review Management System (CRMS) Wins ALA Copyright Award

From ALA:

The American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) today named the Copyright Review Management System (CRMS)—a product developed by staff at the University of Michigan’s HathiTrust digital library with the contributions of volunteers at libraries across the country — this year’s winner of the L. Ray Patterson Copyright Award.

The annual award recognizes the contributions of an individual or group that demonstrates dedication to a balanced U.S. Copyright system through advocacy for a robust fair use doctrine and public domain. The award is named after L. Ray Patterson, a key legal figure who explained and justified the importance of users’ rights to information. Patterson helped articulate that copyright law was shifting from its original purpose and favoring the interests of copyright holders over those of the general public. His book, The Nature of Copyright: A Law of Users’ Rights is the definitive book on the constitutional underpinnings of copyright and the critical importance of the public domain.

CRMS is a system to determine the public domain status of hundreds of thousands works in the HathiTrust digital library—a large corpus of over 13.7 million works from the University of Michigan Library collection, the collections of partner research and other libraries and the Internet Archive. The CRMS project is led by Melissa Levine, Lead Copyright Officer and librarian at the University of Michigan. Beginning with a National Leadership Grant from IMLS in 2008-2011, the University of Michigan Library and programming staff began creating the investigative process and necessary software for making public domain determinations. Due to the large scale of the project, the CRMS relies on a collaborative network of trained volunteers—primarily staff from research library partners across the country—to make the determinations. Thus far, over 323,334 works have been identified by CRMS as works in the public domain. Works in the public domain are no longer protected by copyright and can be freely used by anyone. The full text of these works is accessible to anyone at HathiTrust.

Establishing the copyright status of a work is an involved process due to the lack of authoritative registration records, the changing legal requirements for protection, the complexities of publishing status, and other idiosyncratic matters. CRMS workflow makes elucidating the copyright status of a work easier because it “integrates the potential of research methods, technology, law, and transformed library services,” remarked Kenny Crews, a former winner of the Patterson award and attorney and Professor of Law at Columbia University.

Read the Complete Announcement

See Also: Learn More About the CRMS (via UMich Library)

Video: Recorded on March 16, 2016

HathiTrust’s collections include over 5.4 million volumes that are open for reading. A substantial number of these volumes are open because of cooperative copyright investigations conducted by staff as part of the Copyright Review Management System project (CRMS). Mike Furlough and Kristina Eden explain the factors that govern access to volumes in HathiTrust and how the copyright review program works.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) 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 Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.