ALCS and PLS provide innovative rights identification service for Wellcome Library digitisation project

The Wellcome Library has embarked on a major programme to digitise its collection of key books relating to the history of modern genetics and make them available online for research purposes. The collection comprises approximately 1,700 books published between 1850 and 1990 from 53 different countries.

Because the majority of the titles are in copyright and often out of print, identifying and tracing rights holders to seek permission to use this content presents a major challenge. The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and the Publishers Licensing Society (PLS) have contributed to the development of ARROW, an EC-funded project for linking rights data and facilitating diligent search for copyright owners for the purpose of seeking usage permissions.

ALCS and PLS have entered into a collaborative arrangement with the Wellcome Library to provide a 'rights identification service' using ARROW. The system will deploy their respective works databases and networks of international rights-holders to provide a rights identification search and contact service for the authors and publishers of the books that are in copyright.

The Wellcome Trust will use ARROW to search for the relevant copyright owners. This pilot project will provide the first major test for the ARROW system and will enable ALCS and PLS to develop its individual and shared rights identification systems for published works.

At a time when UK and EC policymakers are developing measures to enable access to 'orphan works', this pilot project will also help to better define the processes involved in performing 'due diligence' searches for rights-holders.

Dr Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library, explains: "As a library that supports the understanding of medicine in culture, providing access to key scientific texts for historians is of paramount importance to our mission. By working with rights-holders and their representatives, we hope to create a robust and sustainable model that meets the needs of researchers, authors and publishers."

Owen Atkinson, Chief Executive of ALCS, adds: "We look forward to working with the Wellcome Library to assist them in the process of tracing authors while at the same time developing transparent and supportable systems by which works may be defined as 'orphan'."

Sarah Faulder, Chief Executive of PLS, says: "This exciting project bears out the need for an expeditious means of searching for rights-holders. We are therefore delighted that the Wellcome Library has chosen to deploy ARROW and we look forward to supporting this project."