The Orphans Are Dead. (c)

Back in May I posted a link about the Orphan Works Bill taken up by Congress. Though it would not have provided a sorely needed recodification of the rather burdensome and vague US Copyright Code, it would have provided some measure of protection to those who desire to advance the field of knowledge by building upon the work of an author who has been either unresponsive to a researcher’s attempts at securing copyright permissions or whose location and contact information are unknown. This protection would have come in the form of limiting judicial remedies in cases where an author or other copyright owner who had been unresponsive to a diligent, good-faith effort on the part of a researcher subsequently sued.

Anyway, the Senate passed the bill but it has since died a quiet death in the House. I agree (I think) with Lawrence Lessig’s NTY argument that what constitutes a “good-faith effort” may have been too vague in this bill, but I hate to throw out the orphan with the bathwater. Lessig points out the problem:

The Congressional Research Service has estimated that just 2 percent of copyrighted works that are 55 to 75 years old retain any commercial value. Yet the system maintains no registry of copyright owners nor of entities from which permission to use a copyrighted work can be sought. The consequence has been that an extraordinary chunk of culture gets mired in unnecessary copyright regulation.

On a related note, I urge all my readers who are Members of Congress (ha!) to consider and act on the recommendations by the Section 108 Study Group sponsored by the Library of Congress.

There. I feel better getting that off my chest.

Oh, and the fastest way to kill a blog and lose readers? Begin blogging about copyright law.


  1. Heh, I really don’t think the fastest way to kill a blog is to blog about copyright law. I actually find it interesting. 🙂

    Regarding the problem pointed out by Lessig: Do you think some sort of registry would be the solution? Perhaps shifting the burden toward the persons that hold the copyrights in the first place would be a good way to start. Make them update [insert time frame: years? decade?] Or they lose rights to it.

  2. Barbara P says:

    I don’t like to read about frustrating situations that I can’t do anything about.

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