© is the copyright symbol in a copyright notice

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Orphan works will be the issue up for discussion today as the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, IP and the Internet today continues its series of hearings on the future of copyright. Information about the hearing, which commences at 2pm is here. You should be able to catch the livestream here.

Orphan works are a major problem when it comes to copyright, both for content creators and users. The term generally applies to those works for which no copyright owner can be found. The indeterminate status generally precludes the licensing of such works and serves the best interests of neither content owners nor users.

Copyright Alliance CEO Sandra Aistars today issued a statement on the subject, which includes the following salient points:

  1. The Goal Of Any Orphan Works Solution Must Be To Identify Authors, Not Consign Works To “Orphan” Status: The goal should be to keep as much content as possible from being deemed an “orphan” work. This means making works and owners easily searched and easily found. Ways to accomplish this include the creation of recognized registries and the definition of standards for a diligent search for authors.
  2. The Copyright Office Should First Improve the Registration System: The first step must be to make the registration system more useable by registrants and searchers. Aistars recommends making it more amenable for searches for photographs and other visuals. The system must also be more user friendly for creators of low volume/high value work. Those include photographers and other “creative upstarts.” At present, the system is too costly and too burdensome for many works even to be registered. The difficulty in conducting effective searches for such content also proves a disincentive to registering.
  3. Progress Has Been Made Since 2008: The news is not all bad! In particular, the Copyright Alliance is “encouraged by the collaborative work of the Picture Licensing Universal System (PLUS), a neutral, non profit 501(c)6 organization which brings together stakeholders from the photography, illustration, publishing, graphic design, advertising, museum, library and education communities to seek solutions to mitigate the orphan works challenge facing those communities.”
  4. Mass Digitization Presents An Entirely Different Set Of Concerns: There is not a complete overlap between the issues. In most cases the institutions seeking to digitize complete collection have not been seeking to contact authors for the purpose of permission. Their goal has been digitization, first and foremost.

We hope you’ll try to take a look at the livestream. If not the Copyright’s Alliance @terrencehart will be at the hearing and live Tweeting from the Chamber.


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