The Copyright Office of the US Library of Congress is seeking to examine the issues raised by "orphan works", which is what it calls copyright works whose owners are difficult or even impossible to locate. Concerns have been raised that the uncertainty surrounding ownership of such works might needlessly discourage subsequent creators and users from incorporating such works in new creative efforts or making such works available to the public. The Copyright Office requests written comments from all interested parties. Specifically, the Office is seeking comments on whether there are compelling concerns raised by orphan works that merit a legislative, regulatory or other solution, and what type of solution could effectively address these concerns without conflicting with the legitimate interests of authors and right holders.
The IPKat accepts that there may be individual cases of annoyance or inconvenience, but he is sceptical as to whether there is so great a problem as to legislate for it. Merpel says, "if you can't find the copyright owner, isn't it normal practice to infringe and see if anyone notices?"
A bill to deal with orphan works here
Orphan drugs here and here
Orphan brands here and here
Orphan Annie here and here