The Council on Library and Information Resources has released "Bibliographic Indeterminacy and the Scale of Problems and Opportunities of 'Rights' in Digital Collection Building" as the first paper in its new "Ruminations" series.
Here's an excerpt from the announcement:
CLIR has launched a new publication series, "Ruminations." The series will feature short research papers and essays that bring new perspective to issues related to planning for and managing organizational and institutional change in the evolving digital environment for scholarship and teaching.
We inaugurate the new series with a report by John P. Wilkin that posits the scope of works in the public domain and probable extent of orphan works in our research library collections, based on an analysis of the HathiTrust book corpus. The question of rights status is critical since it governs how works can be used or reused, especially in the digital environment.
Recent research shows that HathiTrust's collection—which currently holds more than 5 million digitized books—is highly representative of research library collections. On this premise, Wilkin has analyzed HathiTrust's holdings and drawn preliminary conclusions about the proportion of works that are in-copyright, in the public domain, or are orphans—that is, works whose holders cannot be located.