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Third-Party Digitization Agreements

The Library's collections materials include millions of items in formats such as monographs, serials, bound newspapers, pamphlets, manuscripts, sound recordings, films, videos, sheet music, photographs, posters, microfilm, and maps. Its collections enable the Library in its mission to support the Congress in fulfilling its constitutional duties and to further the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people.

One means of accomplishing this mission is to make collections materials available, not only on-site at the Library, but through digital copies of the materials on the Library's web site. Moreover, the digitization of Library materials assists in preserving the collections for future generations.

In order to respond to increasing expectations for collections materials and related items to be made available on the Library's web site, the Library seeks to supplement its existing digitization programs by entering into no-cost contracts for the scanning or digitization of Library materials for the mutual benefit of the contractor and the Library. The Library has issued an ongoing Request for Proposals for third party digitization projects.

All digitization projects must comply with Principles for Library of Congress Third-Party Digitization Agreements. For more information contact

Principles for Library of Congress Third-Party Digitization Agreements

Introduction. The Library of Congress has two main purposes in expanding the Library's digital collections and engaging in no-cost digitization agreements with third parties:

  • Increasing public access to collection and related materials and
  • Preserving and securing the materials for the future.

The process will be guided by the Library's additional goals of open government, transparency, open competition, and adherence to copyright law in entering into such agreements.

Scope. The following principles guide the Library of Congress in assessing all proposals for both commercial and noncommercial third parties to digitize materials in Library collections, including digitization for exchange and digitization from microfilm. These principles apply only to agreements for which the Library does not compensate the third party. These principles will not apply to (1) commercial digitization contracts; (2) digitization of Library collections by individuals or organizations holding the copyright in those collections; (3) internal duplication by the Library; or (4) duplication through the Library's Duplication Services scanning services.

  1. Non-exclusivity.
    1. 1.1. The Library does not enter into exclusive arrangements that allow only select entities to use the Library's collections for commercial or non-commercial purposes.
    2. 1.2. Generally, the Library will not enter into agreements to digitize the same original materials more than once.
    3. 1.3. The Library anticipates that it will have multiple digitization partners.
  2. Transparency.
    1. 2.1 The Library anticipates publicly soliciting proposals for no-cost third-party digitization projects for Library collections.
    2. 2.2 The Library anticipates that all third-party digitization agreements will be nonconfidential, public information.
  3. Selection of Materials.
    1. 3.1. Library prioritization. The Library will establish digitization priorities for its collection materials in accordance with the mission of the Library, taking into consideration factors such as collection policies, congressional priorities and the public interest.
    2. 3.2. Library selection. The Library reserves complete and final approval as to what materials may be digitized under an agreement. Generally, items selected for digitization will be whole books, full series of documents or runs of periodicals, full image collections, etc., as opposed to isolated items.
    3. 3.3. Copyright. Digitized materials must be (a) in the public domain, (b) materials for which, in the judgment of the Library, there are no known copyright restrictions, or (c) materials for which the digitizing partner agrees to obtain copyright permissions for both its activities and the activities of the Library with respect to the project.
      1. 3.3.1 The partner may assert copyright in independent, creative elements it may add to the original materials, such as enhanced metadata, assuming the partner has a sufficient legal basis and does not attach the Library to its claim. However, the partner may not claim copyright on the basis (a) of creating a derivative of the underlying work without permission of the copyright owner, or (b) that the mere act of digitization rises to the level of separate copyrightability or can create copyright in materials that are otherwise in the public domain.
      2. 3.3.2 The Library will not enter into third-party digitization agreements for materials under copyright absent a plan to obtain permission from the copyright owners. The Library will reserve complete and final approval of each permission plan. The permission plan should include obtaining necessary rights for the Library to provide access to the public, and to preserve and secure the digitized copies over time, and should require the partner to assume all risk in the digitization of copyrighted works, including any permission fees.
  4. Digitized Materials.
    1. 4.1. Library copy. As a general rule, the Library must at a minimum receive a digital copy suitable for the Library's archival purposes promptly after the digitization is complete. The Library generally expects to receive an additional copy, in a format to be agreed upon, for purposes of providing access to Library patrons.
    2. 4.2. Metadata. In addition to a copy of the digitized material named and organized in folders in an agreed-upon scheme, the Library requires the partner to provide associated core metadata to be agreed upon by the Library and the partner. The associated core metadata must be sufficient to make the digitized copies usable by the Library, and must include a core set of descriptive metadata. If the partner were to create enhanced metadata for its value-added features, the Library would encourage, but not require, the partner to provide that metadata to the Library.
    3. 4.3. Credits. The partner shall provide agreed upon credits to the Library, and the Library shall provide agreed upon credits to the partner.
  5. Digitization Process.
    1. 5.1. Technical specifications. The Library and the partner must agree on detailed technical specifications for digitization, including quality control. These specifications should be consistent with
    2. 5.2. Handling of materials. Archival materials must be handled in accordance with Library conservation and security standards. The original materials may not be damaged or destroyed. As a general rule, disbinding of collection materials is not allowed.
    3. 5.3. Accessibility of materials being digitized. The partner should establish workflows that minimize the amount of time that the original materials are unavailable to the Library during the digitization process. In all events, it must be possible to retrieve materials expeditiously to meet urgent Library needs.
    4. 5.4. Off-site scanning. The Library will consider allowing materials to be digitized off-site when it is to the Library's advantage to do so, taking into account condition of materials, rarity, number of copies, requirements for access, timeline, etc.
  6. Costs. The partner bears all or a significant portion of the costs of the digitization, including the costs of any copyright search or permissions for materials still protected by copyright.
    1. 6.1. Additional Support Costs. The Library may request the partner to assume additional costs for supporting all phases of the project, including but not limited to:
      • project management,
      • material identification and selection,
      • material preparation (including access review and preservation activities),
      • inventory control,
      • conservation assessments,
      • conservation treatment,
      • preparing materials for scanning,
      • metadata collection and quality control,
      • data management, and
      • all costs of permissions.
    2. 6.2. Costs and Institutional Priority. The Library may exercise more leeway in cost recovery when the project is especially important to the mission of the agency. The Library will require the partner to bear a larger portion of overall costs when the digitization of the materials does not represent an institutional priority of the Library.
    3. 6.3. Additional benefits. The partner and the Library may agree upon additional benefits to the Library or the public, such as free access to the partner's online service for the materials or a larger collection into which they are incorporated, reduced subscription fees, or royalties for the Library. However, free access or reduced subscription rates shall not be substituted for the mandatory Library digital copies.
  7. Immediate Library and patron access to digital files. Nothing in a digitization agreement may prohibit the Library from making the digitized materials immediately available on its premises, and from including the digitized material in its regular preservation and security programs. The Library prefers to have the immediate right (but not obligation) to provide full and unrestricted access to the digitized copies on its Web site.
  8. Use Restrictions.
    1. 8.1 Fair Use. Nothing in a digitization agreement may constrain or otherwise affect the Library's ability to apply copyright exceptions or limitations or to facilitate such claims by Library patrons. As appropriate, such exceptions or limitations may include the application of fair use (17 U.S.C. § 107) or the application of library exceptions (17 U.S.C. § 108).
    2. 8.2 Embargo period. When the digitization of the materials does not represent an institutional priority, the Library will consider a short term (generally less than three years) of restrictions upon the Library's right to distribute digital copies externally, such as an embargo on online posting of the material on the Library's external Web sites. Such embargo periods are generally disfavored. Following any embargo period, the Library will have full rights to the digitized materials and the core metadata, including the right to make those copies freely available online, subject to copyright permissions for any underlying content.
  9. Partner Use of Digitized Materials. Nothing in a digitization agreement shall prevent the partner from making the digitized material available under its own application of law and assumption of risk. While the Library would prefer that the partner provide some form of free public access to the digital copies, the Library will not restrict the partner from charging for copies of and/or access to the materials, particularly when the partner has developed value-added features for search, discovery, and display.
  10. Assessment of Third-Party Digitization Proposals. In assessing third-party digitization proposals, the Library will consider whether entering into the agreement is in the best interests of the Library, the public, and the United States. Considerations will include, but are not limited to:
    • Whether the project is an institutional priority for the Library;
    • The cost to the Library of supporting the project;
    • The financial benefits to the Library, including any subscription reduction or royalties
    • The condition of the materials proposed for digitization;
    • The value of any materials received in exchange;
    • The non-financial benefits to the Library, including the quality of metadata;
    • The preservation benefits, including reduced use of fragile materials;
    • Maximizing the benefits to the public, such as immediate, free online access to the digitized content, the added value of the online presentation, filling gaps in collections already online, and making materials available that are of high public, researcher, or educational interest;
    • Any negative impact of any restrictions in the agreement, including the detriment to the public of any delay in free public availability;
    • The technical standards for digitization and metadata; and
    • Qualifications of partner and project personnel, including ability to meet technical standards and demonstrated experience in handling and digitizing the type of materials under consideration.
  11. Review of Principles. The Library intends to review these Principles regularly to ensure they reflect the Library's digitization goals and objectives.