Michigan Publishing is currently assessing the rights and permissions statuses of every title in the University of Michigan Press backlist, with the aim of bringing as many titles as possible back into circulation.

In 2013, Michigan Publishing undertook a project to assess the rights and permissions landscape of the entire backlist from the University of Michigan Press, including more than 4,000 titles. Since the project’s inception, it has also grown to include the cataloging of permissions in the title file ‘vault’ for every title in the backlist.To date, more than 1,100 titles have had their permissions cataloged from the files at Michigan Publishing, and more than 2,200 titles have had their rights assessed.

The rights and permissions assessment for each title begins with an inspection of the book scan or physical book, to verify and correct metadata and form a baseline for likely permissions issues such as: in text images, cover images, quoted text, tables, illustrations and more. The assessment itself begins with the use of a number of online tools including the Stanford Copyright Renewal Database, the Libary of Congress Authority File, tools available through the Harry Ransom Center at UT-Austin, and others. These tools have the ability to fill in holes regarding the copyright history of the title, such as whether the rightsholder(s) followed required formalities during specific periods. After this, the contract information is verified by inspecting the original, physical contract for the original rights holder, rights transfers or reversions, contract terminations, etc. Once the previous steps are completed, the contents of the entire title file for the given title are used to assess the permissions status of the title against the known issues for the title from the previous steps. Any issues uncovered in any step and not resolved through research in the title file has the ability to impact whether a title might be brought back in to circulation.

After the titles have been assessed, they are placed in a set of ‘buckets’ regarding their likely outcome due to their rights and permissions status.  At this point, the project staff enters conversations with the editors to help decide the best use for the titles.

Near the point at which the project was half-way compete, a poster presentation on it was offered as a ‘Project Update’ at the Library Publishing Coalition’s 2015 Library Publishing Forum in Portland, Oregon.