Harvard Library lifts restrictions on digital reproductions of works in the public domain

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The Harvard Library announced a new policy on the use of digital reproductions of works in the public domain. When the Library makes reproductions and they are 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. The policy supports the 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.

Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication and of the Harvard Open Access Project said, “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.”