Held Captive by Copyright: Two Case Studies for Open Access




Gushee, Elizabeth
Rushing, Amy

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The Harry Ransom Center is among the nation’s finest research libraries; its extensive holdings of manuscript, text, and visual materials provide a unique record of the creative processes of thousands of writers and artists. In 2014, with the goal of promoting the use of its collections, the Center’s Digital Initiatives Working Group (DIAG) was tasked with developing an open access policy for its corpus of materials believed to be in the public domain. As part of their work, DIWG surveyed open access strategies across peer institutions, struggled to determine where to place the Center on the open access continuum, debated the effects of open access on the Center’s human and financial resources, and, ultimately, found the process of identifying archival materials as “public domain” far more slippery than originally expected.

In the fall of 2014, UTSA Libraries Special Collections held a department retreat to define strategic priorities for the year, and to discuss one of the thorniest issues facing repositories today: the permission to publish. Following a lawsuit against the University of Arkansas Special Collections and the subsequent urging of intellectual property guru Peter Hirtle that “it is time for repositories to get out of the "permission to publish" game and leave permissions to the copyright owner,” UTSA Special Collections decided to do just that. What we thought would remove barriers to our collections, however, has caused unanticipated issues regarding privacy, copyright, orphan works, and maintaining good donor relations.

Learn how two libraries within The University of Texas system has grappled with issues of open access, copyright, and restrictions related to the use of their materials.


Presentation slides for the 2015 Texas Conference on Digital Libraries (TCDL).