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UC Libraries expand access to orphan works

The University of California Libraries will join with the University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin and University of Florida in a groundbreaking initiative to identify and make available digital versions of “orphan works” ( within the holdings of the HathiTrust Digital Library.

HathiTrust is a partnership of major research institutions and libraries working to ensure that the cultural record is preserved and accessible long into the future. The majority of HathiTrust holdings are in-copyright works, of which an unknown but likely large proportion are so-called “orphans” – works whose owners cannot be identified or located. The University of California will join the effort to identify orphan works and publicize information about them in order to give rights holders an opportunity to claim them and make informed decisions about their availability within HathiTrust. It is likely that many people with these rights wish to make the books fully viewable.

The majority of orphans probably are just that – lacking anyone to claim ownership. If the orphan works are not claimed by rights holders, the digital volumes will be made available in full view to HathiTrust partner library patrons if their libraries hold those works in their print collections.

“This effort promises to expand access to a great number of digitized scholarly works in the UC Libraries’ collections that have previously been hidden from view,” said Laine Farley, executive director of the California Digital Library. “In addition to the more than 2.5 million public domain volumes already available within HathiTrust, this important project will bring a larger percentage of our digitized works directly to our students and faculty in support of their work.” The text of all of the works contained within HathiTrust is fully searchable today, but currently only works in the public domain or works whose copyright holders have given explicit permission can be consulted online in their entirety. The bulk of public domain works are pre-1923 books from the U.S. and government publications.

About the University of California libraries
More than 100 libraries on the 10 University of California campuses support the university’s research, learning, patient care and public service missions. Collectively, they make up the largest research/academic library in the world and, with the California Digital Library, have taken the lead to harness technology in support of innovative forms of scholarly communication. To date, the UC Libraries have digitized more than 3.5 million volumes in their collections. For more information, visit

About HathiTrust
Launched in 2008, HathiTrust has a growing membership, currently comprising more than 50 partner libraries. Over the last three years, the partners have contributed more than 9 million volumes to the digital library, digitized from their library collections through various means, including Google and Internet Archive digitization and in-house initiatives. More than 2.5 million of the contributed volumes are in the public domain and freely available on the Web. For more information, visit

See UC Press release: