Copyright office seeks to save the orphans

I haven’t followed copyright and intellectual property here as closely as I used to, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the U.S. Copyright Office has requested public comment about using orphan works.

Simply put, orphan works are copyrighted creative works for which the rights holder is hard to find. For example, perhaps your grandfather published a collection of poetry through a small publisher in 1947, having sold to that publisher his interest in the poems. You would like to republish the collection, but the original publishing house is now out of business. Who owns the copyright?

Or say your parents are celebrating a wedding anniversary. You are throwing a party for their dearest friends, and as party decorations, you want to enlarge and display some of your parents’ wedding photos. You take the originals to a nearby lab, but the lab owner refuses to reproduce the photos, saying the original photographer owns the rights.

The copyright office is seeking to clarify issues surrounding these orphan works. If this problem affects you, please consider telling the office.