D-Lib Magazine
The Magazine of Digital Library Research
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D-Lib Magazine

September/October 2014
Volume 20, Number 9/10
Table of Contents


Testing the HathiTrust Copyright Search Protocol in Germany: A Pilot Project on Procedures and Resources

Rebecca Behnk, Karina Georgi, Regine Granzow and Lovis Atze
Humboldt University, Berlin

Point of contact: Rebecca Behnk (behnkreb@cms.hu-berlin.de)



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There are more than 11 million volumes in the HathiTrust Digital Library. The largest group of non-English books — almost 600,000 titles — is in German. For most of these German works, the copyright status is unknown, which means that only the catalogue records can be made publicly available in the digital library, even if a work has passed into the public domain in Germany and could be made available as a full-text scan. To begin to address this problem, a small pilot project was undertaken by a group of students in the Berlin School of Library and Information Science at Humboldt University (the authors), to investigate potential resources for determination of author death dates for HathiTrust books published in Germany. The authors provide observations on the usefulness of certain resources identified with "diligent search" in recent changes to German copyright law passed in response to a 2012 European Union directive on orphan works. They also discuss additional resources not mentioned in the law that might be useful in conducting such searches. Furthermore, they make recommendations for improvement of the HathiTrust Digital Library search protocol for works published outside the United States, particularly in languages other than English. The project findings will be of interest to policy makers, publishers, librarians and others engaged in efforts to identify digitized books that can be made publicly available in accordance with national and international copyright laws and regulations.


1. Introduction

In April 2013, a group of students gathered for the first time to meet their new professor with whom they would work on one of the summer term project seminars offered by the Berlin School of Library and Information Science (IBI) at Humboldt University. Only a few things were clear before this first meeting: the project seminar would be held in English, which would be a challenge as all the students are native German speakers, and that it had something to do with copyright issues and HathiTrust, which in turn had something to do with the Google Books project.

But things soon became clearer. Students learned that HathiTrust is a consortium of more than 80 academic and research libraries, whose more than 11 million volumes were mostly scanned by Google and could possibly be made publicly available in the HathiTrust Digital Library in accordance with copyright law (HathiTrust / Our Partnership, n.d.).

And this is also where the problems begin: for a lot of digitized books, the copyright status is unknown, meaning they could already be in the public domain or they could still be under copyright protection (HathiTrust / Help Copyright, n.d.). Since 2011, the CRMS-World project from the University of Michigan has tried to determine the copyright status of books from the UK, Canada, and Australia written in the English language that are included in the HathiTrust holdings (Levine, 2013). But because only half of the already digitized volumes are written in English (HathiTrust / Languages, n.d.) and since the copyright law differs from country to country, research projects in other countries became necessary as well. As almost 600,000 titles of the books of the HathiTrust Digital Library are in German, and most of these are likely to have been published in Germany as well, the next logical step was to initiate such a project in Germany. IBI, the only member of the iSchools Caucus1 in Germany (IBI, 2013), volunteered to initiate a pilot project with students to identify German resources that might help to determine the copyright status of the German-language books. The task in the project seminar was not to actually determine the copyright status of those scanned German books, but rather to present an overview of German copyright law and sources giving information on the birth and death dates of authors or editors, where these could be determined, as a preliminary step to determining whether a title may have passed into the public domain or when it could do so.

In the beginning of the project, students had to acquire an understanding of German copyright law. An overview of the law, presented in section two, follows the general Introduction. Then the work on the HathiTrust test collection began. The workflow and the problems which occurred during the research are described in section three. The solutions to these problems as well as the sources deemed useful for a "diligent search" regarding the death dates of authors and editors of German books, are presented in section four (diligent search and sources for locating information about German authors are described in the recent changes to German copyright law with regard to orphan and out-of-print works). Section five encompasses recommendations on how these results can be improved. A Bibliography of works used and cited in the report is provided, along with a Glossary to facilitate German-English translation for future researchers. The Appendices are tables, including the project title list, the person search list, and the search results; one figure, an example of the individual search diaries kept by each author during the project.


2. The German Copyright Act

The aim of this section is to provide an overview of the German Copyright Act, especially in comparison with U.S. copyright law.


2.1 Historical Overview

All issues concerning the copyright law in Germany are regulated by the German 'Gesetz über Urheberrecht und verwandte Schutzrechte' (short: Urheberrechtsgesetz)2 [= 'Act on Copyright and Related Rights' (short: Copyright Act)]. This law was established in 1965. But its main idea — the author-based copyright law — reaches even further into European history as it was established in 1793 by French lawyers (Gehring, 2007). The intention is that in German copyright law intellectual property is determined by the creative performance which results in the literary or scientific work, and not by simple ownership of a work (Kreutzer, 2008). Therefore, the major aim of the German copyright law is to protect the work's author and his or her moral rights of ownership and to ensure an adequate compensation for the exploitation of the work. This is defined in part 1 of the German Copyright Act, where the actual copyright law is regulated (§ 1-69g UrhG).3 These and other regulations in the German Copyright Act are influenced by the Berne Convention4 and decisions and regulations from the European Union (Kreutzer, 2008).


2.2 Main Concepts

The main consequence of the aim identified above is that an author of a work can never lose, transfer or sell the moral rights of his or her work in German copyright law but can only grant several exploitation rights to others who want to use or publish the work.

Protected Works (§ 2-6 UrhG)

Protected works include all literary, scientific and artistic works such as written works, as long as they are intellectual creations of the author that meet the standards for originality. In particular, a work needs to be a manifestation, not a mere idea. Thus improvisation in the arts and spontaneous speeches are protected works, even if no record exists. Furthermore, a work needs to possess a certain level of originality, although the degree of this level may vary. In addition to originality, a work must be not only observable but should also create an emotional experience and/or set of notions in its beholders. These criteria serve the purpose of distinguishing between works of art and science and scientific inventions, which are protected by patent law.

Authors (§ 7-10 UrhG)

An author is always the creator of a work. When several people work together on the creation of a work, they become joint authors of this work and the rights granted in the copyright law thus apply to all of them.5 An author in German copyright law has to be a 'natural person' (human being).

Scope of Copyright (§ 11-27 UrhG)

As described above, there are two sorts of rights distinguished in the German Copyright Act: the Moral Rights that always stay with an author and the Exploitation Rights that allow an author to grant certain rights regarding his work to others.

Moral Rights (§ 12-14 UrhG)

There are three different Moral Rights named in the German Copyright Act:

  • Right of publication: The author of a work is the only one to decide if and when or how his or her work is to be published. If there are several authors involved, the publication right has to be granted by every member of the creation's collective.
  • Recognition of authorship: The author of a work has the right to be named as such and can decide how this should be done.
  • Distortion of the work: The author of a work has the right to prohibit any distorting use of it that endangers his or her interests in the work. Even if the right of adaptation is granted, the author may revoke the work's use if the work's transformation leads to a falsification of its purpose or meaning.

Exploitation Rights (§ 15-24 UrhG and § 31-44 UrhG)

Exploitation Rights (=Verwertungsrechte)6 grant an author the right to exploit the work in material form and to communicate the work to the public in non-material form. The exploitation of a work in material form includes:

  • Right of reproduction: The author of a work has the right to reproduce it in any form or number.
  • Right of distribution: The work's author has the right to offer the work itself or copies of it to the public.

The communication of a work in non-material form includes:

  • Right of recitation, performance and presentation: The author of a work has the right to publicly recite the work.
  • Right of making works available to the public: The work's author has the right to offer the work to the public by wire or wireless means so that members of the public can access it from any place and at any time, which is only possible through the Internet.

By these rights the author can grant several Exploitation Rights (=Nutzungsrechte) to others, e.g. a publishing house. An author has the ability to grant the use of a work in a particular manner or in any manner, grant the right(s) as non-exclusive or exclusive, or restrict the grant in respect to place, time or content. If the author is granting an exclusive exploitation right to another person or company, he or she enables this authority not only to use the work in any specific way determined by the given contract, but to grant non-exclusive exploitation rights to other authorities as well. Non-exclusive exploitation rights, in contrast, may be granted to several people whereas an exclusive exploitation right may only be granted once.

It is important to note that the manner of use of a work is determined by its form of use. Therefore, the author may grant various exploitation rights to different users as long as they meet the criteria of differentiability towards economic and technical manners. For instance, the author may grant different exploitation rights on one work to several publishers, given that one publisher gains the rights for the work's publication as a printed copy, whereas another publisher may gain all rights regarding the work's e-book publication. Similar to the Right of publication, all members of the intellectual creation process need to grant these rights.

Limitations on copyright (§ 44-63a UrhG)

In comparison to the Anglo-American copyright law, a concept of fair use is absent in the German Copyright Act. Nevertheless, it contains a number of limitations to ensure public interests by partly allowing the use of works under copyright protection for science, research and education.

These include among others:

  • Quotations: Everybody is allowed to quote the author's work as long as this happens for the purpose of an intellectual analysis and/or examination of the work. The purpose of the quotation limits its scope.
  • Making works available to the public for instruction and research: Educational institutions such as schools or universities are allowed to make certain parts of an already published and copyrighted work available only to a limited circle of people e.g. pupils, students or research fellows through the Internet.
  • Reproduction for private and other personal uses: Every person is entitled to make a few copies of a work for private use only, provided that they meet the further requirements, e.g. the work used for copying may not be an obviously illegal copy of the original work. In general, an adequate remuneration to the author must be paid for these potential free usages, which is realized through different collecting societies.7

Duration of copyright (§ 64-69 UrhG)

Copyright, as defined in the German Copyright Act, expires 70 years after the death of the author or, regarding joint authors, 70 years after the death of the last remaining member. Meanwhile, the rights granted by the copyright law may be bequeathed to an associated heir until the copyright expires after 70 years.8


2.3 Recent changes in German copyright law

On the 8th of May 2013, the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany published a bill regarding a change of the copyright law in terms of orphan and out-of-print works called 'Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Nutzung verwaister und vergriffener Werke und einer weiteren Änderung des Urheberrechts'.9 The German law implements the Directive on Orphan Works approved by the European Commission in October 2012.10 Its main aim lies in enabling the digitization and publication of orphan and out-of-print works that are already part of the collection of a public institution. While the changes to German copyright law with regard to orphan and out-of-print works were out of scope for this project, which was limited to duration research to determine death dates, the law identifies specific reference sources which should be used in a "diligent search" for authors. The project participants attempted to use these reference sources in their search for death dates, and they report here on their experience as insight into the practical challenges of executing a diligent search. The following paragraphs refer to the paragraphs as stated in this bill, of which only the most important issues relating to diligent search are included in this summary.

Pre-conditions for the digitization and publication of orphan works are:

  1. "the work has been published already" (§ 61.1, § 61.2 UrhG)
  2. "the work's rights holder could not be determined after a diligent search" (§ 61a.1-5 UrhG)

A diligent search as specified in the bill includes searching in a defined list of national and international databases, recognizing that the rights holders could also be located outside of Germany (§ 61.5 UrhG).

Several factors of this bill have been subject to criticism (Aktionsbündnis "Urheberrecht für Wissenschaft und Bildung", 2013). Unfortunately, when conducting a search for unknown authors with the recommended resources, most of them turned out to be fruitless due to their limited availability to the general public. A further discussion of some of these resources is presented in section 4.1.


2.4 Summary: German Copyright Act vs. U.S. Copyright Law

As shown above, the main difference between the German Copyright Act and the U.S. copyright law lies in the general concept of intellectual property that is applied in the law and that results in the inability of an author in German copyright law to transfer these (moral) rights to another person, except an associated heir. Thus, the economic and personal interests of the author of a work form the law's core element.

In contrast to this, the copyright holder in U.S. copyright law does not necessarily have to be the author of a work or a natural person. Therefore, in the U.S. law, all personal and economic rights regarding a work can be transferred to any other person, institution or corporate body. Even a complete disclaimer of the copyright is possible resulting in the works immediate transfer into the public domain. (Deterding; Otto, 2008).


3. The workflow of the "Copyright Review" project

This section provides an insight into the three months of work in the project seminar. The project group met once a week during the summer term 2013 and planned the ongoing process, discussed results and problems, and reviewed their search documentation during their meetings. As one of the first steps, the group received the title list "German editions of Greek and Latin works 1873-1933" from HathiTrust with about 125 volumes of books with an ambiguous copyright status.11 To gain an overview, these titles were divided among the course participants and a copy of each volume was searched in local libraries, mostly the Jakob-und-Wilhelm-Grimm-Zentrum, the main library of the Humboldt University at Berlin. A physical copy of each title was examined independently by two students to determine if an exact duplicate of the title could be located for inspection.


3.1 The title list "German editions of Greek and Latin works 1873-1933"

The title list "German editions of Greek and Latin works 1873-1933" of the HathiTrust Digital Library is the basis for the creation of the revised title list "German editions of Greek and Latin works 1873-1933" that is visualized in table one. The HathiTrust list is structured by the book titles. Each entry contains a title, data concerning the edition, the author and the publishing date. Additionally, every entry provides two links, one of which gives more information extracted out of existing catalog records (i.e. physical description, language(s) etc.) and the other provides a deeper insight into the texts of the books.


3.2 Table one: "German editions of Greek and Latin works 1873-1933"

Out of the HathiTrust list, the project group obtained their information and collected the results in the "German editions of Greek and Latin works 1873-1933" table. The table not only contains the information given by the HathiTrust catalogue records in a more structured way (e.g. title, author, publication year) but also additional information that was generated out of the catalogue records by the project participants. For example, every individual editor (the person who published the Latin text enhanced with a critical apparatus or a commentary) was given an individual editor number, thus leaving out editions with multiple volumes or entries in the title list of HathiTrust. The information on whether or not an editor already has biographical dates given in the catalogue record is also included in a column in table one.12


3.3 Early problems with the HathiTrust catalogue records

The first thing that became clear after table one was created was that all volumes are editions of ancient Latin or Greek works, for example by Plato, Seneca, Ovid etc. Therefore, the project group realized that not the dates of death of the original authors, but rather those of the editors were missing and needed to be researched. This caused several questions and problems that the catalogue records of the HathiTrust Digital Library did not solve but rather aggravated.13 Table one showed that some volumes, for example, had multiple entries in the HathiTrust title list describing the exact same volume digitized in several libraries. In addition to this, a lot of editors already had dates of birth and dates of death given in their catalogue entries that could be regarded as reliable according to HathiTrust. Thus, after some work with table one and the HathiTrust catalogue records and some help from HathiTrust, it was obvious that out of 50 editors, only twelve needed to be searched.


3.4 First results — table two: "Persons to be searched"

Next, a table was created to identify the person names that needed to be searched. The "Persons to be searched" table14 is structured in the following way:

Column A: editor number (counted in order of the listing in table "German editions of Greek and Latin works 1873-1933")
Column B: name of the person who needs to be researched (sometimes already including a given date of birth from the title list)
Column C: title
Column D: author (original creator)
Column E: catalogue record (summing up the relevant entries in the title list)

It was a great advantage that all titles connected to the editors for whom the dates of birth and death were still missing are available in the Jakob-und-Wilhelm-Grimm-Zentrum. The next logical step would have been to compare the physical volumes with the scans of the volumes in HathiTrust. Unfortunately, a comparison was not possible because HathiTrust could not release the scan to Humboldt University, as it is not a project partner of HathiTrust.15 Instead, students photographed the title pages and other relevant front matter of the volumes they examined and provided these images to HathiTrust for comparison to the scan in HathiTrust so that staff at the University of Michigan could confirm that the volume examined in Berlin was indeed the same as the one in HathiTrust.

While the work to identify and capture images of title pages was being done, the search for secondary resources to determine birth and death dates continued simultaneously.


3.5 The search for the dates of death

For this purpose, a list of relevant resources was developed and discussed. It was important to find as many relevant resources as possible that are independent from the Gemeinsame Normdatei (GND), the primary resource for information on German authors, as the HathiTrust search protocol requires that information be verified in two independent sources by two persons working independently. Therefore, the primary publisher from the title list (the Teubner Publishing House), the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, and several other resources were considered to be potentially useful as well. After the list of possibly helpful resources was created, the twelve editors were divided among the project seminar's participants for the follow-up research process. Most of the sources considered to be useful are available online. The offline resources were evaluated by only one student, who tried to find out dates of birth and death by asking the holder of a specific database, e.g. the database of the Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin, for more information about all twelve editors. Each project participant summarized her results in an individual search diary documenting each stage in the search. An example of one search diary is included in the Appendices.


3.6 Research Problems

In most cases, the search for dates of death for the twelve editors proceeded efficiently. Nevertheless, it should be noted that in some cases it was absolutely necessary to know the German language. One example of this was the popular German name "Wilhelm Friedrich". In order to determine which person among the large number of results actually was the researched person, basic language knowledge was required to search for additional biographical information.16 Some of the resources and databases require knowledge of the German language as well because not all of them provide an English user interface. Another complication is that some resources provide several data sets in one database probably regarding the same person. The different sets may give information that varies in scale and accuracy, and although it seems very likely that they mean the same person, further information by another source is required to validate this.


3.7 Search results — table three: "Search results"

Despite all the challenges in the beginning of the project regarding the HathiTrust catalogue records, the project group was able to determine the dates of death for nine of the twelve editors in question with the help of the search resources described below. This result is recorded in table three "Search results", which is structured in the following way:

Column A: editor number
Column B: editor name
Column C: dates of birth and death (determined during the research and found in at least two different sources)
Column D: resources (at least two, containing the information on the missing dates of death)
Column E: researcher (initials of the seminar participants who researched the dates of birth and death of the person in question).


4. The results of the "Copyright Review" project

The aim of this section is to provide an overview of the resources used in the search described above for missing dates of birth and death and to suggest the most practical search strategies to identify birth and death dates of German authors using the presented resources.


4.1 Research resources

First, the resources that were used to find information on dates of death of German authors during the work of the project seminar are introduced and evaluated with regard to the given task and title list. It is very likely that some of the sources which were not helpful for this task would be useful for the search of other authors and editors that are, for example, more established than the German editors of ancient Greek and Latin works on the given title list, so evaluation of resources might be very different for another title list.

Helpful Resources

The most helpful research resources in the given context (with two or more hits) were:

  • VIAF (Virtual International Authority File): The Virtual International Authority File turned out to be the most valuable resource to determine dates of death for German authors. VIAF, which is hosted by OCLC, is an Internet portal which conflates the authority files of many national libraries and other institutions. At first, the project was only a test portal that tried to link the authority records for personal names between the Library of Congress, the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (DNB) and OCLC. But in August 2003, a consortium was formed among these three project partners to establish a permanent solution which in 2007 was joined by the Bibliothèque National de France (OCLC, 2013). In subsequent years, a number of other organizations became project partners and now provide additional source files as well. During the research for the project, it became clear that almost every editor in the title list that needed to be searched has an entry in the VIAF database, usually enriched with biographical data and often linked with the works the person published. Thus, it was the most helpful tool for this research with ten hits in total.
  • GND (Gemeinsame Normdatei): The Gemeinsame Normdatei is the authority record of the DNB and contains authoritative information on people as well as corporate bodies and their works, congresses and geographic entities (Wiechmann, 2013) and can be searched through the OPAC of the DNB. It is the most extensive and most reliable resource for information on German authors and editors. It is integrated in VIAF and searchable through the database, but it is necessary to search the GND separately as it sometimes contains valuable additional information. The biggest problem that occurred during the research for dates of death in the GND was that sometimes people have several records with different contents that are not linked at all. Therefore, it is often unclear if the different data sets refer to the same person or a different one. This is especially problematic if one file links a name and a work but contains no further information, and another file, in contrast, gives biographical data and additional information for the same name but has no connection to the researched work. In addition to this, although the website of the DNB is available in an English version, the results of a catalogue search are not, which means that German language knowledge is necessary to use the GND as a search resource. All these problems complicate research using the GND, but it is nevertheless very useful in connection with other resources like VIAF.
  • Kössler Personenlexikon: Sometimes during the search for the editors of the ancient works, records of the GND presented Kössler: Personenlexikon as a source of information. Kössler is an index of German teachers of the 19th century. It contains concrete and extensive information on the life of the persons included and their published works. Due to the fact that most editors of the title list were teachers or professors, it proved especially helpful. It may not prove as useful for other groups or occupations. Furthermore, the Kössler, like the GND, requires knowledge of the German language.
  • Deutsche Biographie: The online database Deutsche Biographie contains biographical entries for more than 120,000 important German persons and combines the information from the two encyclopedias Allgemeine Deutsche Biografie and Neue Deutsche Biografie (Deutsche Biographie / Über das Projekt, n.d.). Although people have to have a certain level of importance to be registered in the Deutsche Biographie, some of the editors researched by the project group had entries in it and the database is therefore a valuable and trustworthy resource for the research of dates of birth and death. All entries are listed in an alphabetical index or can be searched via a search box. Unfortunately, the website offers no translation options.

Resources not useful for this project

Resources that were tried but did not prove to be helpful in the given research context (with at most one hit) were:

  • Munzinger: The Munzinger biographical database, directed by the Munzinger-Archiv GmbH, is a large database for persons of public interest. It was established in 1913 and is now available online but only selected entries can be used for free; in general, the whole database has to be licensed (Munzinger / Produkte, 2013). Nevertheless, it may be very helpful when searching for famous persons, which was not the case in this research project.
  • Kürschners Deutscher Gelehrten-Kalender: Kürschners Deutscher Gelehrten-Kalender is a registry containing bibliographical data of German scholars. The first edition was published in 1925 and it has been regularly updated since then. It is available in print and online form, though earlier editions are only available in print (SUB Hamburg / Kürschners Deutscher Gelehrten-Kalender, 2010) and only selected entries can be used for free online. Though it was not useful during the research for this project, it might be helpful in other contexts.
  • WATCH (Writers, Artists and their Copyright Holders): The database WATCH contains information on copyright contacts but since it was originally planned as a database for English literary works, it was not useful in searching for German writers. It may nevertheless become important for German research soon, as it is now expanded to other works and other languages (University of Reading / WATCH Project, n.d.).
  • Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach: The Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach is one of the largest literary archives in Germany with a very large collection of materials inherited from German authors (DLA Marbach, n.d.). It also provides an online database with names and biographical data freely available on its website which makes it a useful source for rather important German authors.
  • Akademie der Künste Berlin: When searching for German artists who are or were members of the Akademie der Künste Berlin, the academy's database should be very useful, since it contains information about more than 2,500 of the recent and former members (Akademie der Künste / Mitglieder, n.d.). Search capability for recent academy members via facets and a search box is available in English. Unfortunately, researching former members is only possible in German.
  • VLB (Verzeichnis lieferbarer Bücher): The Verzeichnis lieferbarer Bücher is a database that contains all books delivered to the German book trade, focusing on recent publications. Unfortunately, it only contains information on available works that an author published, without information on authors' dates of death. Furthermore, use of the database is subject to charges and there is no access for the general public.

Resources with restricted access

A number of suggested resources were unavailable for different reasons but could nevertheless have been helpful for the research of dates of death.

  • Teubner-Verlag: The authors decided to directly ask the German publisher Teubner for information about the searched editors because many of the works in the title list were published by this publishing house. Unfortunately the authors were informed that the data is only available for internal use at the publishing house.
  • Deutsches Historisches Museum: The Deutsches Historisches Museum, one of Germany's largest museums located in Berlin, also has a database containing information on persons of interest. Again, authors were informed that it is only available for internal use.
  • VG Wort (Verwertungsgesellschaft Wort): The VG Wort, the collecting society that represents authors and publishers in Germany, also keeps records of their members, but it is also not available for public access.
  • ARROW (Accessible Registries of Rights Information and Orphan Works): The ARROW database contains information on the copyright status of out-of-print and orphan works and is connected to Europeana (DNB / ARROW, 2012). Since it has no freely available search interface it was not helpful in the given research context but might nevertheless contain helpful information for the determination of dates of birth and death.

Other potentially useful resources

During the research in the project seminar, some other resources were used as well that are not traditionally library sources.

  • Google: One helpful though not traditional library source was Google, especially for the refinement of the search results. It often showed additional websites which proved the already found information to be valid. But if no additional personal information other than the name was available in other sources, Google presented little additional information. However, Google is a good way to find alternative sources for biographical dates in general, especially when German search phrases are used.
  • Bürgerämter ('Registration Office'): About one editor, almost no information could be found. One of the seminar's members contacted the responsible Bürgeramt17 for information on this person and obtained the person's date of death. These busy institutions provide administrative services for citizens and communities and therefore are not able to handle a large number of research requests.
  • Universitätsarchive: Another idea for the future would be to check university archives for death dates. Every university holds documents about former students, professors and a list of the university's publications in its archive, which should be a reliable source. In some cases, these documents and information are accessible via the university's repository.

4.2 Research best practice

This section provides a short overview over the most efficient way to use and combine these resources in order to obtain the dates of death of German authors.

During the search it became apparent that it is most useful to check every person in VIAF first. It may be necessary to vary the spelling of the person's name or to try different combinations of name and work title in case no, or too many, results are found in the database. In the most useful case, the person's entry contains biographical data given by more than one national library, therefore the biographical data can be seen as proven by at least two sources, because every national library providing data in VIAF is a single source according to the HathiTrust guidelines. If an entry is provided by only one National Library, or contains only a name and no biographical data, the search should be continued with the other resources given.

Which sources should be checked next depends on the type of person being searched for. How easy and fast is the access to a resource? How promising is the index and type of resource for the special problem and how reliable is it? These questions should be answered and, based on the answers a search itinerary may be created with a list of the resources according to their usability which may then be processed.

Although search results should not rely on Google searches18 only, a Google search could be useful as a final step to verify or refine the results found. In addition, Google may help with hard-to-find persons, and reveal new ways to search or even new (reliable) resources.


5. Improving the research framework or: A conclusion for the Copyright Review Project

Since the first meeting of the Copyright Review project group, a lot has been achieved. After gaining an understanding of German copyright law and recent changes regarding diligent search, and comparing the HathiTrust catalogue records on the project title list with corresponding physical volumes that could be located in Berlin, the project group delved into its search for birth and death dates of the likely copyright holders. By the end of the project, death dates of those persons were determined for 109 volumes.

The list of resources for the identification of biographical dates of German authors and editors that was established by the project group proved to be very helpful, and dates of birth and death for nine of the twelve editors that did not already have biographical dates in the original title list were obtained. Even though most biographical dates could be determined with a search in VIAF, other resources were also useful and other possibly helpful sources were established.

Since only the biographical dates of twelve out of 50 editors in total had to be searched, one recommendation to improve the search process is to check all HathiTrust catalogue records for German authors first, and filter out those that already have biographical dates established. This could substantially speed up the process for clearing the copyright status of German works, especially if the filtering process can be automated. In addition, the HathiTrust catalogue records should be checked for multiple entries of the same edition of one book — almost every title in the project group's example title list had multiple entries with the same author or editor, because it was scanned in different libraries. This pre-check could also speed up the search process. Another tool that facilitates the work of the researchers — especially when they have to do the research in another language — is a glossary. The glossary included in this report contains translations of the most important German words and (search) phrases used in the report or that were helpful in the search process.

The authors hope that the results and suggestions presented in this report for improving the process of searching for birth and death dates of German authors and editors whose works are in HathiTrust will be useful to others conducting similar research, and will continue to be expanded on.

Afterword: For the authors, the most gratifying result of the project has been that 100 of the 109 volumes on the project list have now been made publicly available by HathiTrust, with review continuing for the remaining titles.



The authors would like to thank Joyce Ray, visiting professor at IBI during the summer 2013 term, who directed the copyright review project seminar, and Melissa Levine, lead copyright officer at the University of Michigan, for the realization of this project, as well as for their constant support. Furthermore, they would like to thank professor Katharina de la Durantaye and law student Tom Hirche from the Humboldt University Law School for their advice on all matters regarding the German copyright law, and Michael Seadle, Dean of the Humboldt University Faculty of Arts I and Director of IBI, for his constructive critique.



1 The iSchools Organization is an association of information schools. One of its major goals is to increase visibility of the information field by the general public, e.g. by organizing the iConference. The iSchools Organization is governed by the iSchools Caucus.

2 Full German version (2013); English version (2013).

3 Part 2 defines "Related Rights" (§ 70-87h UrhG), part 3 "Special provisions on films" (§ 88-95 UrhG), part 4 "Common provisions on copyright and related rights" (§ 95a-119 UrhG) and part 5 "Scope of application, transitional and final provisions" (§ 120-143 UrhG). They are not relevant for this analysis.

4 The 'Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works' is an international agreement that governs the use of copyright. The agreement was first signed in Berne, Switzerland, in 1886 by eight countries with Germany being one of them whereas the U.S. only signed the agreement in 1989. The goal of the agreement was and still is to make sure that the copyright of authors from works that have been published in one country that has signed the agreement is protected in every other signatory country as well. Although the Berne convention cannot be seen as a replacement for a national copyright law it still contains some standards for national copyright law that have to be applied by all signatory countries, for example that the duration of the copyright protection has to last at least 50 years after the death of an author (Meckel, n.d.).

5 There is no further written contract needed for this, but all creators have to agree (written, oral, implied) that they want to create this work together (willful collaboration). In addition to this every author has to make his own and individual contribution to the work which must not be exploitable on its own.

6 Note that the English term 'exploitation rights' has two different meanings in the German Copyright Act. In this context it has to be translated with 'Verwertungsrechte', whereas elsewhere (§ 31-44 UrhG) it should be translated with 'Nutzungsrechte'.

7 Collecting Societies (§ 32, § 53, § 54a UrhG. and § 6-20 UrhWahrnG4): In Germany, there are currently 12 collecting societies, which are responsible for ensuring and protecting the rights of their associated members, mainly authors of different kinds of intellectual property, as well as the collection of fees for the use and adaptation of an author's work and their duplication. Among other things, this includes fees for technical devices for the duplication of works, like photocopiers and optical disc drives, as well as devices for the transport of digital works, like USB flash drives, MP3 players and e-book readers (Djordjevic, 2007).

8 In contrast to U.S. copyright there are no major exceptions to this rule in the German copyright law:

  • Due to the major aim of the German copyright law — which is to protect the author of a work and his moral rights of ownership — the concept of 'corporate authorship' or 'a work made for hire' does not exist in the German copyright law as it is based on the possibility of an author in U.S. copyright to completely transfer his moral rights to another legal person (§ 29 UrhG). Thus the copyright concept as described above has to be applied.
  • Official works such as acts and ordinances are not protected by the German copyright law (§ 5 UrhG).
  • There are no exceptions concerning the duration of copyright for authors who published during World War I or II in the German copyright law. The copyright for the works written by Adolf Hitler for example — which at the moment is held by the state of Bavaria — expires in 2015, 70 years after the death of Hitler.

9 German version (2013).

10 More information about the Directive on Orphan Works by the European Union can be found here.

11 The list was compiled by Gregory Crane, Humboldt Professor of Digital Humanities at Leipzig University and can be found here. (Please note that the current HathiTrust records may not exactly match the title list of books searched due to subsequent changes to the records at HathiTrust).

12 Because the original version of table one, which was created during the project, is too large to be shown, a revised and shortened version of table one can be found in the Appendices.

13 It should be noted that the catalogue records provided by HathiTrust first and foremost serve the purpose of searching the catalogue itself. This limited the value of the catalogue record for comparison with physical volumes of the title.

14 Tables two and three can be found in the Appendices.

15 Access to scans in HathiTrust is highly secured and controlled. Because Humboldt-University Berlin is not yet a partner of the HathiTrust, the authors were not permitted even limited access to view the book scans for their modest project.

16 The determination of the Wilhelm Friedrich in question was performed by comparing results found in the Kössler-Personenlexikon (cf. § 4.1) with the GND. Because the number of results provided by VIAF and the GND was so large, an evaluation of every single result proved unhelpful. By consulting the Kössler-Personenlexikon a list of works and the life dates of Wilhelm Friedrich were found. After comparing this information to the GND the life dates could be confirmed.

17 Almost every town and community in Germany has at least one 'Bürgeramt'. They are often located in a city's town hall and combine a number of community services at one place: 'Bürgerämter' are for example responsible for issuing new ID cards or passports to the town's citizens and also provide information on parking areas or garbage disposal in the town or area they are responsible for. In addition to this the 'Bürgeramt' also serves as resident registration office that stores information on biographical dates of residents.

18 Of course it depends on the results too, because Google also has indexed the VIAF database. But what is meant here is that there are additional websites which may give valid information about their sources.


[1] Act on Copyright and Related Rights (Copyright Act). In: Gesetze im Internet, 2012.

[2] Aktionsbündnis "Urheberrecht für Wissenschaft und Bildung": Stellungnahme des Aktionsbündnisses zum Referentenentwurf des Bundesministeriums der Justiz "Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Nutzung verwaister Werke und zu weiteren Änderungen des Urheberrechtsgesetzes und des Urheberrechtswahrnehmungsgesetzes", 2013.

[3] "ARROW" In: DNB, 2012.

[4] "A brief history". In: OCLC, 2013.

[5] Deterding, Sebastian; Otto, Philipp: Urheberrecht und Copyright: Vergleich zweier ungleicher Brüder. In: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung / Dossier Urheberrecht, 2008.

[6] Deutscher Bundestag: Entwurf eines Gesetzes zu Nutzung verwaister und vergriffener Werke und einer weiteren Änderung des Urheberrechts, 2013.

[7] Djordjevic, Valie: Verwertungsgesellschaften und Pauschalvergütung. In: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung / Dossier Urheberrecht, 2007.

[8] Das Deutsche Literaturarchiv Marbach (DLA), n.d.

[9] Gehring, Robert: Geschichte des Urheberrechts. In: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung / Dossier Urheberrecht, 2007.

[10] "HathiTrust Languages". In: Website of HathiTrust, n.d.

[11] "Help Copyright ". In: Website of HathiTrust, n.d.

[12] Kreutzer, Till: Bis hierher — und nicht weiter? Wie das Urheberrecht unser Leben beeinflusst. In: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung / Dossier Urheberrecht, 2008.

[13] "Kürschners Deutscher Gelehrten-Kalender". In: Staats und Universitätsbibliothek (SUB) Hamburg, 2010.

[14] Levine, Melissa: CRMS-World: An IMLS National Leadership Grant. In: Website of University of Michigan Library, 2013.

[15] Meckel, Astrid: Revidierte Berner Übereinkunft (RBÜ). In: Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon, Version 7.

[16] "Member of the iSchools caucus". In: Website of Institut für Bibliotheks und Informationswissenschaft (IBI), 2013.

[17] "Mitglieder / erweiterte Suche". In: Akademie der Künste, n.d.

[18] "Our Partnership". In: Website of HathiTrust, n.d.

[19] "Produkte". In: Munzinger, 2013.

[20] "Über das Projekt". In: Deutsche Biographie, n.d.

[21] "WATCH Project". In: University of Reading, n.d.

[22] Wiechmann, Brigitte: Integrated Authority File (GND), 2013.


Table 1: German editions of Greek and Latin works 1873-1933

Table 2: Persons to be searched

Table 3: Search results

Figure 1: Sample search diary of Karina Georgi


German English
Abbreviation Long Form Long Form
AdK Akademie der Künste Berlin Academy of Arts Berlin
ADB Allgemeine Deutsche Biografie General German Biography
  Autor author
  Berner Übereinkunft Berne Convention
  Bürgeramt registration office
  Deutsche Biographie (Allgemeine Deutsche Biografie + Neue Deutsche Biografie) German Biography (General German Biography + New German Biography)
DNB Deutsche Nationalbibliothek German National Library
DHM Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin German Historical Museum Berlin
  Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach German Literature Archive Marbach
  Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Nutzung verwaister und vergriffener Werke und einer weiteren Änderung des Urheberrechts Legal Bill for the Usage of orphan and out-of-print works and one further change of the German Copyright Act
  Geburtsdatum (geboren am) date of birth (born on)
  Geburtsort (geboren in) place of birth (born in)
GND Gemeinsame Normdatei der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Integrated Authority File of the German National Library
UrhG Gesetz über Urheberrecht und verwandte Schutzreche (Urheberrechtsgesetz) Act on Copyright and Related Rights (Copyright Act)
Hrsg. Herausgeber editor
IBI an der HU Berlin Institut für Bibliotheks- und Informationswissenschaft der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin Department of Library and Information Science at Humboldt University in Berlin
GZ Jakob-und-Wilhelm-Grimm-Zentrum (Zentralbibliothek der Universitätsbibliothek der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Center (central library of the university libraries at Humboldt University in Berlin)
  Lebensdaten biographical dates
  Name name
BnF (French) Nationalbibliothek Frankreichs (French: Bibliothèque Nationale de France) French National Library
NDB Neue Deutsche Biografie New German Biography
  Nutzungsrechte exploitation rights
Stabi Berlin Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Berlin State Library
  Sterbedatum date of death
  Universitätsarchiv university archive
  Urheber creator
  Urheberpersönlichkeitsrechte moral rights
  Verwertungsrechte exploitation rights

About the Authors


Rebecca Behnk is enrolled in the Master's Program at Berlin School of Library and Information Science. She is interested in legal issues related to libraries, especially in the ways in which access restrictions for works with unlawful content affect libraries and how copyright law influences collection and use of library materials. She also is working part-time in the Joseph Wulf Library in the House of the Wannsee Conference, a research library in Berlin.


Karina Georgi is a student of LIS at the Humboldt University of Berlin and in her 6th semester of the Bachelor's program. Currently she is working on her Bachelor's thesis on the issue of orphaned works in German and European law, especially on the conditions and the execution of a diligent search. In addition to orphaned and out of print works, she is interested in the preservation and accessibility of cultural heritage as well as the openness of data and data processing. She works as a student assistant at the Berlin School of Library and Information Science.


Regine Granzow studies LIS at the Humboldt University of Berlin and holds a Master's Degree (Magistra Artium) in German Literature from Freie Universität Berlin (2008). She works on the project "Exploration and Documentation of German Foundation Archives". The project aims to investigate and record the archival collections of foundations thorough systematical research, and make the metadata available online: www.stiftungsarchive.de.


Lovis Atze is a student of LIS at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Currently she is in the 6th semester of the Bachelor's Program and her main interests are digital long-term preservation, research for professional information, cooperation between archives and libraries, and library history. She is a part-time employee at the University Library.

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