Two organizations, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and non-profit policy advocates Public Knowledge, have submitted their recommendations to the US Copyright Office to establish fair use guidelines for so-called orphan works, or any work whose rights holders cannot be identified through extensive means.
Orphan works are those whose rights holders cannot be located, meaning the works are still restricted for use by academic institutions, authors, and even the public because licensing is impossible to secure. Current copyright law hasn’t met the needs of the public on these works, and essentially assumes that the rights holders–if they were to be located–would not allow their works to be used.
“As we explain, the best way to facilitate that access is to make sure the public can rely on a robust fair use doctrine. The Copyright Office can help by issuing a report that explains the many reasons why uses of orphan works are likely to be fair ones. That solution is far preferable to some of the other proposals, such as the collective licensing option that has met widespread opposition,” explained the EFF on this issue.
After a productive roundtable discussion on the issue, EFF and Public Knowledge drafted a five-page breakdown of the issue and their suggestions for a resolution that does not involve simply extending some version of collective licensing. The document, available HERE, outlines not only the benefits to establishing copyright guidelines for these estimated millions of writings, recordings, and photographs whose rights holders are currently unlocated, but also points out some faulty assumptions that current mandate the use of these works. This document was created at the request of the US Copyright Office, who has asked for more information and public comments on the issue before working to establish protocols for these situations.