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Harvard Library Lifts Restrictions on Digital Reproductions of Works in the Public Domain

October 21, 2014

The Harvard Library is pleased to announce a new policy on the use of digital reproductions of works in the public domain. When the Library makes such reproductions and makes them openly available online, it will treat the reproductions themselves as objects in the public domain. It will not try to restrict what users can do with them, nor will it grant or deny permission for any use. For more detail, see the policy FAQ.

The policy supports the Harvard Library’s mission to advance scholarship and teaching through the creation, application, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge. Unfettered use and reuse of digitized content for research, teaching, learning, and creative activities supports that mission.

Said Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication and director of the Harvard Open Access Project, “We were inspired by pioneering policies to this effect at Cornell University Library and Yale University. We were also fortunate to have the prime mover of the Cornell policy, Peter Hirtle, at Harvard. I’m proud that Harvard is removing obstacles to research and education, and taking this extra step to share the wealth of its extraordinary collections with the world.”

Sarah E. Thomas, Vice President for the Harvard Library and the Roy E. Larsen Librarian of Harvard College, expressed strong support for the policy change.  “We have already been using the digitization of Harvard’s collections as a means of enhancing access for Harvard’s students and faculty,” she said.  “Now we are seeking to share Harvard’s unparalleled collections with the rest of the world in ways that will foster new creativity.”

The Harvard Library Board adopted the policy late last month. The Library will update its web sites to reflect the new policy during the remainder of the present academic year.

To access past OSC announcements, click here.