more orphan works

New York Times op-ed piece by  Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Stanford:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/20/opinion/20lessig.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

From the sounds of this, I wasn’t far off in my understanding of the problem :p … as Lessig puts it:

“The solution before Congress, however, is both unfair and unwise. The bill would excuse copyright infringers from significant damages if they can prove that they made a “diligent effort” to find the copyright owner. A “diligent effort” is defined as one that is “reasonable and appropriate,” as determined by a set of “best practices” maintained by the government.

But precisely what must be done by either the “infringer” or the copyright owner seeking to avoid infringement is not specified upfront. The bill instead would have us rely on a class of copyright experts who would advise or be employed by libraries. These experts would encourage copyright infringement by assuring that the costs of infringement are not too great. The bill makes no distinction between old and new works, or between foreign and domestic works. All work, whether old or new, whether created in America or Ukraine, is governed by the same slippery standard.”

One comment

  1. “Diligent effort”, “reasonable and appropriate,” and “best practices” are all open to interpretation. I understand the reason for the proposition, and I’m glad we have works on the public domain, but the Orphan’s Works law is something that has to be picked apart with a fine toothed comb, because if it can be abused it will. It shouldn’t put undue pressure on either party to prove or disprove ownership in my opinion.

    What do you think of his proposition:

    Following the model of patent law, Congress should require a copyright owner to register a work after an initial and generous term of automatic and full protection.
    For 14 years, a copyright owner would need to do nothing to receive the full protection of copyright law. But after 14 years, to receive full protection, the owner would have to take the minimal step of registering the work with an approved, privately managed and competitive registry, and of paying the copyright office $1.
    This rule would not apply to foreign works, because it is unfair and illegal to burden foreign rights-holders with these formalities. It would not apply, immediately at least, to work created between 1978 and today. And it would apply to photographs or other difficult-to-register works only when the technology exists to develop reliable and simple registration databases that would make searching for the copyright owners of visual works an easy task.

    Should it pass, I can imagine a new branch of researchers for hire. “Unsure if it’s an orphaned work? For only $19.95 we’ll do a search of our extensive databases for you!”

    P.S. To any who can’t view it because it requires you to login, grab an id from bugmenot.

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