Orphan Works

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2007 & 2008: Work continued on a draft bill, which was officially submitted in 2008. Marybeth Peters, Register of Copyrights, issued a statement supporting the orphan works bill in September 2008. The legislation was not brought up for a vote in the 110th Congress.

A significant sticking point concerns the identification of visual works that may erroneously have been treated as orphan works, leading many photographers and other visual artists to oppose the bill. A technological solution to this concern may be pending.

2006: In a disappointing move in late summer, the orphan works bill was combined with two other bills dealing with online music licensing and "enhanced" criminal copyright enforcement to form the larger and more complicated "Copyright Modernization Act of 2006," H.R. 6052. Withdrawn three times from scheduled markup by the House Judiciary Committee (most recently on September 27), the bill did not move forward in the 2006 congressional session. There is no companion Senate bill. Libraries will work on the reintroduction of an orphan works bill in the new Congress next year.

"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." (From the background section of the Copyright Office page linked below.)


U.S. Copyright Office's Report on Orphan Works