Skip to main content

Access and Use

UC's mass digitized volumes are subject to restrictions due to copyright laws. Scanned volumes believed to be in copyright are only available for full-text search and search-within-the-book; Reading access is not permitted for volumes believed to be in copyright.

Currently, copyright restrictions also apply to the campus or library from which the digitized volume originated and is housed. UC's scanned volumes are preserved in the HathiTrust repository, and UC (like other HathiTrust partners) has no special access to the scans of in-copyright volumes.

UC's mass digitized volumes deemed to be out of copyright (in the public domain), uncopyrightable (such as U.S. federal government documents), or for which the rights holder has given explicit permission are made full view and may be read by everyone.

Reasons Digital Copies May Not Be Available for Access

The following are reasons why a digitized UC library book may not be accessed through HathiTrust or Google Books:

  • The book was published in the United States after 1922 and is assumed to be under copyright.
  • The book was published outside the United States after 1877 and is assumed to be under copyright.
  • Due to differing copyright laws, users from outside of the United States may not have access to view the volume.
  • The book may not be in copyright but has been closed for access due to privacy concerns.

HathiTrust has undergone many copyright review projects to determine the actual copyright status of books automatically assumed to be under copyright. However, copyright review of individual volumes is a time consuming process. While copyright reviews continue, there are still hundreds of thousands of volumes that have not yet been reviewed.

Sharing Digital Copies Across Institutions

UC Libraries are permitted to distribute all or any portion of public domain works contained in the UC Libraries' digital copy to other research libraries for use by those libraries’ authorized students, faculty, and staff for research, scholarly, or academic purposes. However, for public domain volumes digitzed by Google, Google requests that the images and OCR not be re-hosted, redistributed or used commercially. The images are provided for educational, scholarly, non-commercial purposes.

Accessing Closed Digital Volumes

You may not be able to get access to the UC digitized volume you need. But here are a few things to try:

  • Be sure and check off site linkHathiTrust, off site linkGoogle Books, and off site linkInternet Archive to see if the volume happens to be open on one of these services. Once in a while (albeit rarely) the volume may be open in one service but not another.
  • Check to see if the physical book is located in a library near you. The book may be available if you are able to walk into the library where it is housed. HathiTrust, Google Books, and WorldCat all have tools that allow you to locate volumes in a library closest to your location.
  • If you are affiliated with a college or university library within the United States, check with librarians there to help you get the book (or required pages) via interlibrary loan.
  • Contact the Mass Digitization Team at if any of these appear to be the case:
    • The book appears to be a U.S. government document.
    • The book was published or authored by the University of California.
    • The book was published from 1923 - 1977 and does not have a copyright notice in the front matter.

If any of the above are the case, there is a chance we may get the book opened for full view after a lengthy process.

1923 and US Copyright

In United States copyright law the year 1923 seems almost magical – books published before 1923 are assumed to be in the public domain and are open for full view access; books published in 1923 or later are assumed to be under copyright and have restricted access. This is a huge generalization, in fact many books published in 1923 or later are in the public domain due to lack of copyright notice or renewal (and a few books published before 1923 are still in copyright); but it is still a good rule of thumb to follow. But why is 1923 the special year and why does it never change?

The year 1923 gained its special status as a result of the off site linkSonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. Prior to 1998, copyright in published works lasted at most 75 years; the Sonny Bono act extended all existing copyrights for works published before January 1, 1978 by 20 years (for works published after this date the copyright term became life of the author plus 70 years). This is why works published before 1923 are assumed to be in the public domain:

1997 (the year before the new rule took effect)
 - 75 (the maximum copyright duration until 1998)

= 1922 (the last year published volumes can be assumed to be in the public domain)

However, unless existing law changes, on January 1, 2019 the magic year will shift to 1924. This is because 2018 minus 95 (the new maximum copyright term) equals 1923, thus making 1924 the new cutoff year.

Thereafter (assuming the law remains the same) the “magical” cutoff will increment by one each January first until 2072 (after which all copyrights in published works will be based on author's death date plus 70 years).

Last updated: July 23, 2018
Document owner: