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Wednesday, 2 February 2005


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.

Library of Congress: in pursuit of a solution, or looking for a problem?

Written comments must be received in the Copyright Office on or before 5pm EST on 25 March 2005. Interested parties may submit written reply comments in direct response to the written comments on or before 5pm on 9 May 2005.

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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think I'm in favour of making these works available, without potential authors spending time and money tracking down the long-gone copyright owner. It also brought to mind a lecture by James Doyle that I attended last year, when he discussed his views on the second enclosure movement and argued in favour of orphan works being made available to everyone and, in fact, took it one stage further to suggest, as I recall, that there should be a presumption of availability of works, rather than a presumption of copyright protection. His article on the second enclosure movement and cyberspace is published at 66 Law and Contemp Probs 22 (2003), and might be worth a (re-?)read.

Gillian Black

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