Archive:Orphan works RFC

Revision as of 19:07, 5 February 2005 by Emstark (talk | contribs) (Amanda's blog post)
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Amanda's Web site text

A Golden Opportunity to Speak Up

Greetings! If you¹ve reached this page, you already know why a fair, sensible copyright system is worth supporting. (Or maybe not. See our FAQ.)

Right now we have a great opportunity - our government has explicitly asked for our feedback! The Copyright Office has issued an official Request for Comment with regard to so-called "orphan works."

The official text is below. And here's the plain-English intrepretation:


We need to hurry -- comments are due by March 25, 2005. Luckily, you just need to follow these three easy steps to submit your comment by e-mail:

  • Step 1: Write Comment
  • Step 2: Confirm Email
  • Step 3: Done!

Summary from the Federal Register

Amanda's blog post

Speak up for Copyright Orphans!

Imagine if the color red was outlawed. Does that sound absurd? It's one way that you can interpret today's copyright law. Under our laws, creators are like painters whose palettes are limited to a very narrow range of colors. In this case, the "colors" are creative works from the past.

Thousands and thousands of books, movies, and TV shows created in the last 60 years [NOTE: Where are we getting 60 years from? Works created after 1923 are under copyright until 2018 under the Sonny Bono CTEA] COULD be available to the public to view, adapt, and enjoy...but instead they're stuck in legal limbo. The law says you can't use these works without permission of the copyright owner [This is misleading, let's not forget about fair use. Of course there are major issues with even fully valid fair uses such as the threat of legal action.], but how do you get permission if you don't know who to ask?

  • There is no central registry of copyrights [It is possible to register w/ the Copyright Office, although not required and from what I gather most people haven't. ]
  • Many copyright owners have moved, changed their names, or died
  • Many copyrights have changed hands -- through inheritance, corporate buyouts, or other means
  • Tracing copyright often means hiring an expensive lawyer, or going through an extended search through the Library of Congress.

Creating a simple, easy way for members of the public to check the status of orphan works would add hundreds (actually, millions) of currently illegal colors to our palettes. It's the difference between painting without red...and painting in crimson, scarlet, pink, and fuschia.

So drop a line to the Copyright Office today. Tell them how much you care about fixing this problem. And if you have a brainstorm about HOW to fix it (i.e., what kind of lookup you'd like to see), tell them that too.

Ordinary People Can AND HAVE Used Their Power to Affect Government Policies

Example 1: In 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture responded to an avalanche of more than 275,000 commments on its proposed definition for "organic" food by substantially rewriting the regulation.

"I do want to point out that the fact that we are once again announcing a proposed rule on national organic standards is a living example of our democracy at work. The people spoke very loudly... It's a well known fact that we received an unprecedented 275,603 comments during the first go round.... " - Dan Glickman, Secretary of US Department of Agriculture, March 7, 2000.

Example 2: In 2004, the National Weather Service responded to over 1400 comments on its proposed policy on the distribution of weather and climate information, forecasts, and warnings to the public. Recognizing that the agency needed to move away from its restrictive format, the NWS formally adopted [open standards? how do we phrase this?]. It was noted that the use of Extensible Markup Language (XML) and other open standards lowers the barriers to entry in the commercial marketplace, as had been pointed out out in a comment to the NWS from the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Bottom line: Someone IS reading your comments! So e-mail now to make sure your voice is heard.


Some places to get some info/ideas from


These are people we've made contact with to ask their input or encourage them to comment. Please include your name and the date you contacted them. Underneath, include the status.

General contacts

  • Tess Taylor, president, Nat'l Assoc. of Record Industry Professionals
    • 29 Jan, Gavin
    • 3 Feb: no reply
  • Tom Cotter, professor of law, UFlorida
    • 29 Jan, Gavin
    • 3 Feb: no reply
  • Gerald Haskins, professor of computing, UFlorida, Florida FC faculty advisor
    • 29 Jan, Gavin
    • 3 Feb: no reply

Announcing the Web site


To comment

Can't be bothered to comment in these places yet, but we should -- after doing it, move it up, SVP.