Monday, September 29, 2008

Orphan Works Bill

First of all, I want to apologize to those who have contacted me about teaching. I have had a busy schedule of late and not had the time to finalize the outlines for the classes. Please bear with me and I will try to get to this next week. Thank you to all who expressed an interest.

I want to take a few moments to talk about the Orphan Works Bill that was hotlined through the Senate on Friday. It is unfortunate that this has happened, but not the end of the debate. The House has yet to vote on the bill and there is still time to act.

For those not familiar with this bill, please go to this link

This is a quote about "hotlining": "In order for a bill to be hotlined, the Senate Majority Leader and Minority Leader must agree to pass it by unanimous consent, without a roll-call vote. The two leaders then inform Members of this agreement using special hotlines installed in each office and give Members a specified amount of time to object – in some cases as little as 15 minutes. If no objection is registered, the bill is passed."
- Roll Call, Sept 17, 2007

Here's how I see this issue. I am firmly against the bill and hope that it does not pass. I understand why it was written, but it is a pointless bill. Here's why:

Say that you are in a public place and find an object, let's just use a set of keys for this example. They are new keys, but have no identifying marks on them. Under the new bill, these would be orphaned and you would have the right to take them after a substantive search for the owner. What constitutes substantive is undefined. It could be asking the next person who comes along if they are their keys.

The point is, they are not yours, and you have no right to them. That the owner is unknown is beside the point, they are not yours.

Now, say that you come upon the same keys and they are old, let's say, more than 75 years old. If this is the case, then they are no longer owned by anyone because the law that governs their ownership means: life plus 75 years. If this is the case, they are considered to be in the public domain, and even if you know who the owner is, you can most likely use them as you see fit.

So, if an image is less than 75 years old, whether the owner is known or not, registered or not, it is not orphaned. The owner is unknown, but it has an owner. It is not yours, you cannot use it whether you can find the owner or not.

Thanks for reading.


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