The book publishers and an online infringement tracking company, of all people, made PK’s case for an orphan works solution yesterday. Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, Allan Adler, of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), said that Congress should move forward with legislation that would solve the orphan works problem. At the March 13 hearing, he advocated for a solution based on the framework set by HR. 5439 introduced in the 109th congress. You can find an analysis of that bill here.
Also making PK’s case was Maya Gura, Director of Marketing and Sales at PicScout, an online infringement tracking company! She explained that PicScout has a massive database of copyrighted images with identifying information attached to each image. PicScout’s image recognition technology would allow user’s to search for owners of these images. Gura expressed her company’s willingness to be part of a solution to the orphan work’s problem.
Karen C. Coe of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum also made a compelling case for an early legislative solution to the orphan works problem. She described how the museum has several valuable collections such as photographs recovered from a house in Germany just after World War II or a drawing by a child in Darfur. While making these works available to the American public would serve a valuable educational purpose, the museum was unable to do so because the owners of these works could not be found.
Gura’s testimony echoed a position PK has always taken in response to complaints of photographers, illustrators, textile designers and graphic artists. These communities complain that their works become separated from ownership information too often and through no fault of theirs and that the orphan works solutions only exacerbate their problem. PK has proposed that visual registries containing databases of copyrighted images that employ image recognition technology would solve the problems of photographers and the other graphic artists.
Despite the availability of these solutions and the willingness of expressed by PicScout to work towards achieving it, photographers and textile manufacturers continue to oppose any meaningful solution to the orphan works problem. Victor Perlman of the American Society of Media Photographers reasserted the photographer’s objections at yesterday’s hearing. His testimony was supported by Corrine P. Kevorkian, President and General Manager of Schumacher, a textile design company. Both witnesses suggested that if their works were to be included in an orphan works legislation, there should be several limitations on uses of such works. (More on that later.)
The hearing was the third on the orphan works issue. This was the second House hearing and there was one in the Senate. Subcommittee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA), senior Judiciary Committee Republican Lamar Smith (R-TX) said, and Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters testified, that changes to copyright law such as the removal of the registration and notice requirements and copyright term extension have contributed to the orphan works problem. It is time for Congress to restore some balance to copyright law by passing legislation to solve the orphan works problem.