The US Copyright Office received over 700 submissions in response to its Notice of Inquiry that asked whether Congress should do anything about the "orphan works problem." Broadly speaking, Orphan works are any copyrighted works where the rights holder is hard to find.
The problem extends to all creative avenues, but is particularly burdensome in the book, music and visual image arenas. Artists, publishers, compilers and producers who wish to lawfully use a protected work that has no traceable copyright holder have two basic options: 1) use the work and face potentially crushing liability under copyright law; or 2) not use the protected work.
The submissions are varied and thoughtful.
A comment filed by David Drummond, Google's General Counsel, states that oprhan works "exist in a sort of purgatory – the entity holding the copyright over the work has no interest or desire to limit public use of the work, yet the work cannot be licensed by someone who would want to use it, as the holder of the copyright cannot be reached to secure a license. As a result, millions of works, representing hundreds of years of study and experience remain forgotten and unused, gathering dust on library shelves. Google believes that these works should instead serve as a foundation of knowledge upon which future generations can build."
Another response discusses the orphan works problem as it applies to adventure games. "Many [early graphic adventure] games were created by companies that no longer exist, or that have lost interest in these games. It is possible to play these games in emulation on modern machines, but it takes time and effort to port them to a form that is playable, and it is possible that doing so could be violating current copyright laws."
Reply comments are due to the Copyright Office by Monday, May 9. Visit http://www.orphanworks.org/ to learn more about the issues and for a form for submitting reply comments.Posted by AZ at May 4, 2005 02:52 PM | TrackBack