Friday, March 04, 2011

Orphan Works

Greetings from "Policy Form: Righting the Copyright Imbalance", at the National Library of Australia, in Canberra. After "Educational Online Copying", the last tpic for the day was orphan works. These are documents or other materials for which the copyright owner cannot be found.

One of the quirks of current Austrlaian copyright law is that orphan works remain copyright and effectively unusable indefinitely. Factors such as the the length of the copyright can be determined from when the work was published and when the author died. However, if the author is not known and the publication date is unclear, then the copyright can never be to be determined to have ended. Various ways around this were discussed in the forum, such as setting reasonable limits and having a collection agency act as the copyright owner.

It seems to me that the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAMS), are in this case acting like the corporate publishers they normally criticise. The GLAMS want a law passed which retroactively gives them ownership of the orphan works. It seems to me that there are technical solutions, where the institutions automate the searches to find owners.

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