DYR – Declare Your Rights – is a service by the University of Innsbruck which is to be tested within the framework of the ARROW EU project. The aim is to ascertain how many right holders of so called orphan works – in this case dissertations – can be located with moderate effort and are prepared to submit a declaration regarding the usage rights to their works. The results of this pilot project will be published after completion of the project on these pages.
The motivation for this service is the debate about the orphan works problem. So called orphan works are those copyrighted works whose right holders cannot – with reasonable effort – be located anymore. This is the case with many works in the most different media: for insance, think of unsigned newspaper articles, or the casts and crews of motion pictures, or photographs from archives. Also with the 215,000 dissertations dating from the years 1925 to 1988 digitised by us, in most cases it will be nearly impossible to locate the author or their heirs. This means that – even if someone were prepared to contact the right holder and obtain the usage rights – they would not even find an opportunity or contact person necessary for concluding a license agreement. Current copyright law does not go into these "practical difficulties" – and, a few exceptions aside, the usage rights remain with the legal successors.
EU directive on "orphan works"
Due to the aforementioned difficulties the European Parliament adopted a
directive on the problem of orphan works, in which a few general rules are set up on how to proceed in the cases descirbed above. Through it libraries and other public
institutions are to be granted the right to digitise and make accessible online orphan works. In doing so the following conditions
are to be observed:
A "diligent search" must be performed in order to determine and/or find the right holder. What exacly is such a "diligent search" must be defined in detail – and with regard to this discussions are ongoing. Only if the search yields no result is a work an orphan work.
The search must be documented, i.e. the sources an when they were accessed and analysed must be apparent and kept on file for possible later inspection.
The name of the author (if available), the title and other Metadata appertaining to the (digitised and published) work must be submitted to a central registration department of the EU.
Those right holders that could not be found but who take notice of the digitisation and publication of their works on the internet must – if they wish – receive appropriate compensation. According to what criteria this compensation is to be calculated, and who pays it is left up to the Member States.
The "ARROW+" EU project
Independently but cronologically in parallel to the aforementioned EU directive the European Commission has since 2009 supported the ARROW project and its successor ARROW+, which have also addressed the orphan works problem. The goal of the projects is to develop an "electronic rights information infrastructure", which makes it possible to perform the steps for the ascertainment of the status of an orphan work that are required above as simply, efficiently and securely as possible. The project, which has more than 20 partner organisations in Europe and is coordinated by AIE (Associazion Italiana Editori), is mainly supported by IFRRO (International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisation), FEP (Federation of European Publishers) and TEL/Europeana (The European Library/Europeana Foundation).
So as not to unecessarily encumber the matter, which is already complex as it is, the ARROW network focuses on orphan books.
The ARROW rights information infrastructure is to be continued and offered as a service to libraries by an independent organisiation
after completion of the project. Further information on the project you can find on the
DYR pilot service
Even if ARROW focuses primarily on books and the dissertations in question are a special case, they are nevertheless suited for a pilot service:
The 215,000 digitised dissertations doubtlessly present one of the largest collections of digitised works from the 20 th century that exist in Europe.
The fundamental problems to do with "orphan works" can be illustrated very well with the help of this example. How many authors can be located with reasonable effort, how many would consent to their works being digitised and made available to the public by a library? How many would – if they learned through the media or by accident that their dissertation was concerned as well – get in touch and demand the publication of their dissertations be reversed, or what demands (of financial nature or otherwise) would they make for keeping their works accessible? What role does the distance of time play in this connection: i.e. how much is a dissertation from 1925, how much one from 1960, or from 1985 "worth"?
Also, the whole problem area to do with the right of publicity can be demonstrated with the help of the example of the 10,000 dissertations (out of a total of 215,000) that we have selected here. Almost all dissertations contain, on the last pages, a CV, which was mandatory at the time of writing, and which of course contains many details that – in spite of the provided publication of the dissertations – not intended for public access. Therfore some right holders can likely be expected to consent to publication only under the condition that this CV be removed from the online version.
Finally, also the debate about plagiarism must be addressed. This may be especially true of the present body of documents as compared to different ones, on the other hand it only raises – in all its acuteness – the more general issue of norms and expectations of society changing over time, which makes necessary a capacity for differentiation in order to be able to perceive historical distance in an appropriate manner. Concretely: the rules of good scientific practice have – especially through the use of computers and the internet – undergone a radical change so that it is by no means obvious or possible to assess without relevant knowledge if a dissertation complies with the good scientific practice of 1930, 1950, 1970, or 1990. We hope that the present data pool will further an objective discussion.
Mandatory publication of German dissertations
One more word, on the special case of dissertations: in Germany since the
century the mandatory official publication of any dissertation has been provided, and this exactly the reason for German
dissertations making it all the way to the Univeristy of Innsbruck. Mandatory publication was, on the one hand, intorduced
for quality assurance – it should be possible for anyone to examine the quality of a paper – and, on the other hand, the most
recent research results should be retrievable in a timely manner at all major libraries of Germany, but also of Europe. Therefore,
from our standpoint publication on the internet is the consequent continuation of this more than hundred-year-old practice.
Digitising German dissertations in Innsbruck?
Due to the mandatory publication of German dissertations since the late 19 th century they were oftentimes also submitted to university libraries in neighbouring countries. In this way at the university library of Innsbruck a collection of more than 250,000 German dissertations grew. Nearly all of this collection was digitised in full from 2008 to 2011 and afterwards discarded. Due to the separation of the dissertations into single sheets that was made possible by this approach, the overall cost could be kept very low. However, there has been no digital index of the dissertations in the catalogue of the university and province library or Innsbruck. For this reason, with the help of an automated procedure a matching of the digitised title pages with the catalogue of the German National Library in Frankfurt has been performed. For supporting us in this project we would like to give our express and cordial thanks to the GNL team – first of all Ms Ute Schwens.
However, this matching required a relatively large amount of computation time so that for this pilot we have for now only matched 10,000 dissertations. Also ingesting 10,000 full documents into the digital Austiran Literature Online repository, which we operate, requires relatively much work, which was the main reason for our working with only 10,000 dissertations for now in this pilot project.