The U.S. Copyright Office proposed a solution late Tuesday to the vexing problem of "orphan" works -- older materials that people are reluctant to republish because they cannot track down the copyright owners. But the office's recommendation, backed by publishers, is unlikely to please archivists or scholars. In a 133-page report, the office said that people who republish orphan works should pay "reasonable compensation" if the owners of the material surface and demand payment for the use of their materials. The copyright office said its recommendation could be accomplished by amending the Copyright Act. But recognizing that many orphan works are republished online, the proposal also said that if "nonprofit institutions like libraries, museums, and universities" immediately stop using orphan works when contacted by copyright owners, the institutions should not have to pay anything for the copyright infringements. The copyright office also recommended that would-be publishers of orphan works first conduct a "reasonably diligent search" to locate the owners of the works. Librarians, scholars, and museum directors frequently seek to republish orphan works for archival, research, and preservation purposes. They told copyright-office representatives at hearings last summer that nonprofit educational and cultural institutions should not be required to pay anything if copyright owners subsequently come forward, or should pay no more than a set amount -- typically between $100 and $500 -- per work infringed. Chronicle of Higher Education 2/2/06 Read the Report and background information.
Posted by P. Kaufman at February 2, 2006 7:06 AM