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CONTACT: Amy Smorodin
June 8 , 2006
(202) 289-8928
Orphan Works: A Search for Solutions
PFF Releases Transcript of March Event on Orphan Works

WASHINGTON D.C. - Orphan works are works the owner of which cannot be located. How does one ensure that a work will not be lost in obscurity, while still respecting the rights of the absent copyright owner? Participants at "Orphan Works: A Search For Solutions," an event hosted by The Progress & Freedom Foundation, explored these and related issues. In light of ongoing debate surrounding the Copyright Office proposal for Orphan works, PFF is releasing a transcript of the event.

The panel, moderated by Senior Adjunct Fellow Solveig Singleton, featured perspectives from the U.S. Copyright Office, research libraries, copyright owners and experts in intellectual property law. Participants included Prue Adler, Associate Executive Director of Federal Relations and Information Policy at the Association of Research Libraries; Attorney Jonathan Band of Jonathan Band, PLLC; Jule Sigall, Associate Register for Policy & International Affairs at the US Copyright Office; and Steven Metalitz, Partner with the firm Smith & Metalitz LLP.

Singleton began the discussion by outlining the problem of orphan works, highlighted by the explosion of media readily available from digitization. Adler, representing the concerns of research libraries, expressed the importance of making works widely available and her hopes that any orphan works solution will provide incentives for copyright owners to identify their works.

Sigall explained the challenges facing the copyright system following its compliance with the Berne Convention and outlined the orphan works proposal recently released by the U.S. Copyright Office. Sigall explained that the proposal, "doesn't affect the rights that are granted to copyright owners... But it's a limitation on the relief that you could obtain in a court action against the user of an orphan work."

Band voiced his general support for the Copyright Office proposal. "[I]t is a minimalist solution and is exactly the right approach in general terms to solve this problem of how do you relieve the anxiety of the gatekeeper without doing fundamental damage to the Copyright Act and undermine incentives to the copyright owner." Sigall and Band also discussed the concerns of illustrators, photographers and graphic artists concerned with with the "reasonable search" provision because their work often has no identifying information.

Metalitz, who currently represents photographic stockhouses and their trade associations, focused his remarks on the concerns of the copyright holder. He warned that a solution to the orphan works issue should not be rushed. Instead, he urged the use of technologies, such as databases used by online stock photo services, and suggested that alternative dispute resolutions should be considered.

Initial panel remarks were followed by questions from the moderator and audience members. Complete statements from the panelists and questions from attendees can be found in the event transcript.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.



The Progress & Freedom Foundation