Photo Attorney

Mar 22, 2008

The Orphan Works Bill Rears Its Ugly Head Again

During 2005, the Copyright Office studied issues raised by "orphan works" - copyrighted works whose owners may be impossible to identify and locate. Concerns had 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 from making such works available to the public.

In response, legislation was introduced in 2006 to address the issue but it was unfair to creators, including photographers. You can read background information about it on my March 1, 2006, and September 26, 2006, blogs.

Although the 2006 proposal never passed the Committee's review, new legislation is underway. The House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property held a "Hearing on Promoting the Use of Orphan Works: Balancing the Interests of Copyright Owners and Users" on March 13, 2008. You may view it on the Subcommittee's website. Further, ASMP is reporting on the status of the bill regularly.

Because photographers' rights may be dramatically affected, keep advised of the bill's status. It's usually easier to keep rights than to try to get them back.