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[ARSCLIST] Groups Praise Orphan Works Legislation Introduced In Senate and House


For Immediate Release: April 24, 2008 

Art Brodsky (PK): 202-518-0020 (o) 301-908-7715 (c) 

Tania Panczyk-Collins (APTS): 202-654-4222 (o) 773-220-9513 (c) 

Public Knowledge, the Internet Archive, Association of Public Television 
Stations and the Association of Research Libraries joined today to praise 
the work of Senate and House legislators for introducing legislation that 
would allow for greater use of “orphan works.” Those are books, music, 
photos or other works for which the copyright holder can’t be found by 
someone who wants to use the work in a way that normally would require 

Works can become “orphaned” for a number of reasons: the owner did not 
register the work, the owner sold rights in the work and did not register 
the transfer, the owner died and his heirs cannot be found. The U.S. 
Copyright Office found in January, 2006 that that the “orphan works problem 
is real and warrants attention.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and former panel 
Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the Senate’s version, S. 2913. House 
Intellectual Property Subcommittee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA), 
introduced his chamber’s bill with Judiciary Committee Chairman John 
Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), senior Committee Republican Lamar Smith (R-TX) and 
ranking Subcommittee member Howard Coble (R-NC).

While there are differences between the bills, the two pieces of 
legislation generally follow the Copyright Office recommendation that if a 
user conducts a reasonably diligent search, they are generally free from 
high copyright infringement damages; if an owner surfaces, they are 
compensated for the use of their work. The bills also promote creation of 
industry guidelines for conducting searches to find owners and encourage 
use of technology through online databases and visual recognition methods.

Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, said that 
bills “begin to bring balance back to copyright law—finding owners to 
exploit works, encouraging use, promoting new creative uses of works. With 
these bills, much of our culture that would otherwise have been lost could 
be found and presented to new generations. We look forward to working with 
the committees to make certain the final legislation will allow users to 
have full access to the millions of works that have gone unused for 

Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based 
organization dedicated to preserving a record of the Internet and to bring 
library materials to the Internet, also praised the legislation. “We 
appreciate that the bill sponsors provided a safe harbor for libraries and 
archives from penalties which have hindered our institutions from bringing 
digital access to millions of works, most of which are long out of print or 
never commercially sold.”

“This legislation is an important step forward in addressing the critical 
issue of how Public Television stations can use orphan works in the Digital 
Era,” Association of Public Television Stations Acting President and CEO 
Mark Erstling said. “By making it easier for stations to use this content, 
often with deep historical meaning, Congress will enable us to create new 
high-quality, educational and cultural programming and services. Solving 
this problem will also assist us as we embark on the creation of the 
American Archive, an exciting new initiative to digitize and preserve the 
vast archives of public broadcasting content, and make it available to the 
American public. We look forward to working with the House and Senate 
Judiciary Committees as the process moves forward.”

Prue Adler, Associate Executive Director of the Association of Research 
Libraries, said: “The library community is very encouraged by the 
introduction of these bills. Solving the orphan works problem is one of the 
library community’s top legislative priorities. We look forward to working 
with both chambers to fashion an effective framework that will encourage 
socially productive uses of culturally and historically significant works 
whose copyright owners cannot be identified or located.”

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