House Lets Orphan Works Legislation Die; Tons Of Content Remains Locked Up

from the the-death-of-culture dept

We’ve discussed in the past the importance of orphan works legislation, which would make it possible for people to use content on which the copyright holder cannot be found. The amount of “orphan” content out there, that simply cannot be used, is staggering. An orphan works bill makes a tremendous amount of sense. Unfortunately, some content creators whipped up supporters into a frenzy, at times by lying about what the bill actually included, leading to a push to block the legislation. Those folks should be happy: while the Senate did pass the legislation, the House is letting it die, at least until after the election this November. There is no rational argument that I can see for not allowing this legislation to pass. The argument that this allows companies to “steal” the works of various artists is clearly untrue. The legislation requires a full search for the creator, and if the creator later turns up, they can get paid. This is necessary legislation to actually put tons of locked up content back to good use, and it’s a shame that it was killed by the misleading complaints from folks who prefer to limit our cultural heritage by lying about what the bill would do.

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Comments on “House Lets Orphan Works Legislation Die; Tons Of Content Remains Locked Up”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Out of curiosity

I imagine it’s HR 5889.

Introduced in the House by: Rep Coble, Howard [NC-6]
Sponsored by:
Rep Conyers, John, Jr. [MI-14]
Rep Smith, Lamar [TX-21]

It passed House and moved to Senate as S.2913.
Sponsor: Sen Leahy, Patrick J. [VT]

Senate Co-sponsorship by:
Sen Bennett, Robert F. [UT]
Sen Hatch, Orrin G. [UT]

Orrin’s involvement as Co-Sponsor is interesting to the say the least.

Have fun–

Anonymous Coward says:


While I agree with all parts of H.R.5889, Sec 6 and 7 are of particular interest.

Why was this quietly killed again?

(a) In General- The Register of Copyrights shall conduct a study with respect to remedies for copyright infringement claims by an individual copyright owner or a related group of copyright owners seeking small amounts of monetary relief, including consideration of alternative means of resolving disputes currently heard in the United States district courts. The study shall cover the infringement claims to which section 514 of title 17, United States Code, apply, and other infringement claims under such title 17.

(b) Procedures- The Register of Copyrights shall publish notice of the study required under subsection (a), providing a period during which interested persons may submit comments on the study, and an opportunity for interested persons to participate in public roundtables on the study. The Register shall hold any such public roundtables at such times as the Register considers appropriate.

(c) Report to Congress- Not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Register of Copyrights shall prepare and submit to the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives a report on the study conducted under this section, including such administrative, regulatory, or legislative recommendations that the Register considers appropriate.

(a) In General- The Comptroller General of the United States shall conduct a study examining the function of the deposit requirement in the copyright registration system under section 408 of title 17, United States Code, including–

(1) the historical purpose of the deposit requirement;

(2) the degree to which deposits are made available to the public currently;

(3) the feasibility of making deposits, particularly visual arts deposits, electronically searchable by the public for the purpose of locating copyright owners; and

(4) the impact any change in the deposit requirement would have on the collection of the Library of Congress.

(b) Report- Not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General shall submit to the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate a report on the study conducted under this section, including such administrative, regulatory, or legislative recommendations that the Register considers appropriate.

Bunny says:

Narrowing available content

Apparently those who want to be paid for their content are not only intent on getting money for their own content but limiting the availability of all other content. This, of course, is because all of this other content competes for the consumer’s eyeballs or ears and thus slightly lessens the amount of money flowing in to these parasites. But, if we allow the powers-that-be to narrow all culture down to a very narrow band of bland sameness, I wonder what long term impacts this will have on our culture and society? If culture is worth anything at all, then it cannot be a good thing. And if culture isn’t worth much — why should we insist it is so important to put a dollar amount on this luxury and defend that against all comers with the full brunt of legal force?

They cannot have it both ways.

While you’re on the horn with your representative, maybe you can also get them to vote down the Pro-IP act? All of these giveaways…

wayout says:

Orphan Works

My issue is with the following:

`(ii) DILIGENT EFFORT- For purposes of clause (i), a diligent effort–

`(I) requires, at a minimum–
`(aa) a search of the records of the Copyright Office that are available to the public through the Internet and relevant to identifying and locating copyright owners, provided there is sufficient identifying information on which to construct a search;

`(bb) a search of reasonably available sources of copyright authorship and ownership information and, where appropriate, licensor information;

`(cc) use of appropriate technology tools, printed publications, and where reasonable, internal or external expert assistance; and

`(dd) use of appropriate databases, including databases that are available to the public through the Internet; and

and unless I am reading it wrong, in order for the owner of said work(s) to be able to protect his/her work, it needs to be registered so it can be put into a database that is searchable. If not, then say a photograph that has its exif data stripped could be used since the company conducted a “reasonable search” under the afore-mentioned guidelines. Thus forcing you to register all of your work that you want protected with the registars office at a cost of course.

If I am reading this wrong, then somebody can explain, exactely what a “reasonable seach” means under these guidelines

Peter Monahon (profile) says:

BS, BS, BS. This is a commerce and civil matter, government bureaucracy and tax payer money keep out!

Ahh, this is BS. No one is stopping anyone from using so-called “orphaned” works. It’s up to the original copyright owner to resolve this, not the government. The government, on the tax payer’s bill, should not rush around and try to help competitive publishers fight and win against each other in the commercial marketplace.

We should not be spending tax payer dollars to have some newly invented (and trained by whom?) investigative police to officially declare the impossible – that a copyright owner does not exist … according to some bureaucrat’s investigation?!? What would be the exhaustive search criteria? If the copyright holder is retired to a mountaintop in Africa and returns a day after the government officially declares them unfindable? Or is a return envelope with “return to sender, no forwarding address on file” enough to disenfranchise the owner of any intellectual property, registered or not? BS, BS, BS! That is a commerce and civil mater, and not of governmental and tax payer interest.

This silly legislation would have begged for yet another examination bureaucracy like the dysfunctional Patent Office, and like the Trademark Office, creating a new Copyright Office of examiners that reviews applications for copyright use and applications (from whom? at what price?) to declare intellectual property officially “orphaned”.


LostSailor says:

It's Too Bad.

Since I often disagree with Mike on copyright and other issues, this is one post that I agree with him completely on. While this bill was not perfect, it was a huge step in the right direction and should have been passed. Not all content publishers oppose it and since orphaned works are a huge problem, not just commercially but in scholarly publishing as well, it needs to be addressed.

Peter Monahon comments that this isn’t a government issue, that anyone can use “orphaned” works right now. It’s up to the copyright holders to sue if they’re infringed. While technically, you can reuse any content, a publisher or content creator opens themselves up to potentially major damages by doing so, making the use of orphaned works unacceptably risky in most instances. That, and the prospect of a long string of lawsuits. That just enriches the lawyers.

This bill would have given content creators and publishers ample cover for using orphaned works. The process of “due diligence” in finding a copyright holder doesn’t need to be onerous and even if a copyright holder appears after the fact, the payments would be modest (and non-profits would likely owe no payment at all).

Again, not perfect, but reasonable. Because we’re talking about modifying laws to protect both content creators and copyright holders, it’s definitely a government matter, not just a marketplace matter.

PhongD says:

There are benefits!

I agree that the bill is definitely not dead. There is a good chance that it will be picked up once the election is over, especially if since it was approved by the house unanimously.

On the other hand, I believe that this bill will very important to many, especially those in academia. Also, the fear that the bill will encourage infringement is really an overreaction. For more information, check out this JOLT Article

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