Digital Archiving Resources

Acquiring Copyright Permission to Digitize and Provide Open Access to Books


Acquiring Copyright Permission to Digitize and Provide Open Access to Books




Scholarly communications librarian Denise Troll Covey elaborates the difficulties and challenges of digitizing and providing access to books. Reporting on three separate studies sponsored wholly or in part by the Carnegie Mellon University Libraries, Covey cites the labor and time intensive work behind securing publisher and author permissions for not merely digitizing, but also providing access to previously printed works. Despite the open access initiatives by scholars and international consortium, such as the Budapest Open Access Initiative in 2002,she reports fewer than half of the targeted collections become available to the public. While continuing to encourage and promote efforts to secure copyright permissions for digitizing and publishing books, Covey acknowledges current U.S. copyright laws must be changed and advocates lobbying legislative officials to develop both laws and technologies that do not impinge upon the public's right to know. Notwithstanding recent measures to curtail "copyright misuse" (overly restrictive practices by copyright holders), Covey notes that legal protection for creative expression and doctrines such as Fair Use and library copying privileges have weakened in response to aggressive publisher and author tactics to secure and restrict access to digitized books.

One solution for scholarly institutions countering restricted access has been to create institutional repositories. Although these measures facilitate research and scholarly exchange, they do not meet the larger public's rights to information and creative expression. As each of the Carnegie Mellon studies reveal, the status of copyright permission for digitizing individual books is often unknown or unattainable, erring on the conservative side and therefore, rendering such books unavailable. Covey provides sources for locating copyright status and suggests diplomatic means for requesting and securing rights to digitize and make available previously printed books.


Covey, Denise Troll


Council on Library and Information Resources



Date Copyrighted



Polk, Victoria


©2014 Council on Library and Information Resources. All rights reserved.

Has Version





ISBN 1-932326-22-7
ISBN 978-1-932326-22-2

Bibliographic Citation

Covey, Denise Troll. Acquiring Copyright Permission to Digitize and Provide Open Access to Books. Washington, D.C.: Council on Library and Information Resources, 2005.




Covey, Denise Troll, “Acquiring Copyright Permission to Digitize and Provide Open Access to Books,” Digital Archiving Resources, accessed May 22, 2018,