Copyright Review Management System - IMLS National Leadership Grant

CRMS-US (December 2008- November 2011)

In 2008, the University of Michigan Library was awarded a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to create a Copyright Review Management System (CRMS). The purpose of the project is to increase the reliability of copyright status determinations of books published in the United States from 1923 to 1963 in the HathiTrust Digital Library, and to help create a point of collaboration with other institutions. Hundreds of thousands of books were published in the United States between 1923 and 1963, and although many of these are likely to be in the public domain, individuals must manually check their copyright status to make a determination. If a work is not in the public domain, it cannot be made accessible online. The system will aid in the process of making vast numbers of books from this period available online to the general public.

The University of Michigan devotes staff in its Technical Services Division to determining the copyright status of such works.  As of mid-2008, Electronic Access Unit staff had 'manually" reviewed tens of thousands of volumes, and found the majority to be in the publc domain.  

The CRMS builds on that experience by increasing the reliability of copyright status determinations, creating a point of collaboration for other institutions, and aiding in the process of making vast numbers of additional books available online to the general public.

Time frame

The 3-year project began in December 2008 and runs through November 2011. During this period, the University of Michigan will develop the necessary software to perform the work, will conduct tens of thousands of copyright determinations, and will work to engage other institutions through a process of training and coordination. We will be aided in our development and testing by working with our permanently funded copyright review team, and will use an iterative process to refine the functionality of the system to improve workflow and accuracy.

Current Status

The project is currently in Phase Four, which is scheduled to run from June through November 2011.

Version 1.0 of the CRMS was released in July of 2009. Two reviewers now review each volume. If their reviews match, the determination becomes final; if the two reviews conflict, it is queued up for a third review by the "expert arbitrator." Final determinations are exported on a nightly basis to update the HathiTrust rights database. Any volumes that staff determine are out-of-copyright are then made available as full-text.

During Phase II, we put enhancements to the system in place and revised our guidelines and processes in hopes of improving efficiency in our copyright determination work. We released Version 2.0 of the CRMS in June 2010, which includes enhanced interface, navigation and documentation, and incorporates functionality intended to assist us as we train and integrate reviewers from outside institutions.

On-site training took place for reviewers at Indiana University, University of Wisconsin, and University of Minnesota during the early part of Phase III. As of September 2010, reviewers from all three institutions contribute determinations in the CRMS on a daily basis. In May 2011, we released CRMS version 3.0, which facilitates inheritance of CRMS determinations among duplicate volumes in the HathiTrust Digital Library.

Results to Date

As of November 1, 2011, 170,174 volumes have been reviewed for copyright status. Of those volumes, almost 87,000 volumes (approximately 51%) have been determined to be in the public domain and are now available as full text in the HathiTrust Digital Library.

Next Steps

As the current grant period winds down, reviewers will continue to work through the population of works in HathiTrust published in the US between 1923-1963.  We will also evaluate the Copyright Office's comparative search results, and produce a final report for IMLS.


For information about the CRMS project during the years 2011-2016, please see the companion website at CRMS-World.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas.


Page maintained by Melissa Smith Levine
Last modified: 05/10/2016