Orphan Works Hearing
Orphan Works Hearing
Orphan Works Hearing

    Get Involved Today

    Yesterday, the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the issue of orphan works.

    Here’s a list of the witnesses and their testimonies:

    • Jule Sigall: Associate Register for Policy and International Affairs, Copyright Office of the United States, The Library of Congress

    • Allan Adler: Vice President for Legal and Government Affairs, Association of American Publishers, Inc. (AAP)

    • David Trust: Chief Executive Officer, Professional Photographers of America, Inc.

    • Maria A. Pallante-Hyun: Associate General Counsel, Guggenheim Museum

    Larry Lessig wrote a letter on the issue, which was added to the record my Rep. Zoe Lofgren. It has received a bit of criticism.

    What we learned at this hearing:

    • Everyone praises the Copyright Office for their hard work

    • Chairman Lamar Smith (TX) wants to make some progress by the end of the month

    • Concerned artist groups—like photographers and graphic designers—are worried that any orphan works policy exacerbates the issue having a non-digital, non-online searchable copyright registry. They’re also concerned about their legal leverage: it will be too costly to go to court to simply attain their reasonable compensation vs. how much they would be getting if statutory infringement damages applied.

    • Publishers want some shelter from liability if they rely on an user’s search for the original owner

    • Museums, and libraries believe that it would be more beneficial for attribution of an orphan work should be to authors of a work, not just copyright owners.

    There are a few things to think about though—how do we help those concerned artists groups? If the goal of this orphan works process is to match orphans with their lost authors—wouldn’t a online search-engine like registry go a long way to help (this was suggested by Rep. Darrell Issa at the hearing)? Also, is it possible to go forward with an orphan works solution and help ensure that “un-lost artists” receive something—without having incurring the high expense of court costs?

    And what about the concerns more inherent to copyright that Prof. Lessig raised? He wasn’t the only one at the hearing who brought up ramifications the “perpetual” length of copyright—both Mr. Issa and Ms. Lofgren did.

    Are there ways to address all these issues—to give each side what they need—in just a couple of weeks? I think we may have some ideas.

    But don’t take my word for it, watch the hearing for yourself below: