There are works of art, films, books, and other materials in the storage rooms of museums and libraries across the country for which the copyright owner cannot be found. Any use of these materials could mean statutory damages of up to $150,000 per work and so, these orphans go unused. Please write to your congressmen and congresswomen to encourage them to pass the Orphan Works Act of 2008. For more information, see http://www.publicknowledge.org/alertfax/1549
Here is a copy of the letter I sent to help you with your own:
I am writing to ask you to support H.R. 5889, *The Orphan Works Act of 2008*. The bill addresses a problem under copyright law that stops copyrighted works from being used when their owners cannot be found. These works are called “orphans” and there are millions of them that go unused today because filmmakers, libraries, archives, museums, and publishers are afraid of being sued. Penalties for using an “orphan work” without permission can be as high as $150,000 if the original copyright owner appears.
H.R. 5889 allows for orphan works to be used, so long as the user does a “qualifying search” for the owner. In the off chance the original owner surfaces after the search, he is compensated for the use. The bill goes out of its way to prevent “bad faith” users from gaming the system, but is balanced enough to not make it burdensome for the honest users.
The bill includes a “Notice of Use Archive,” a limit on how an orphan can be used, and an extra fee just because a work was registered. These sections would add costs and put more burdens on users that would limit their use of orphan works. I would urge you to take out those sections of H.R. 5889.
Lastly, H.R. 5889 authorizes services that would let owners upload their photos or other visual works to online databases so that the owners could be found later if someone else wanted to use the work. These services are a good idea, but the bill should be changed to guarantee the public free access to search them, including through Internet search engines. Please support this small but important change to the bill.
I urge you to make the above changes to H.R. 5889, and support its passage.