NWU submits comments to the Copyright Office opposing "orphan works" proposals

In response to an inquiry by the U.S. Copyright Office, the NWU has filed comments opposing proposals to legalize copying and use of so-called "orphan works" without the permission of the writers or other creators of those works:

The NWU believes that the so-called "orphan works" problem has been greatly exaggerated. This "problem" has been to a significant degree manufactured as a polemical device, and to a greater degree appropriated and misused to serve commercial interests antithetical to those of writers and other creators. Regardless of the benign intentions of many scholars, academics, and librarians, the (false) perception they promote of an "orphan works crisis" primarily serves Google, other search engines and Web spiders and distributors of digital content, print publishers, and other commercial "partners" and profiteers in copyright-infringing mass digitization and digital distribution schemes. These for-profit companies are the real parties of interest in this inquiry, and these would be the principal potential beneficiaries of a statutory financial windfall from "orphan works" and/or mass digitization legislation – at the expense of the incomes of working writers and other creators....
In addition, the NWU believes that any "orphan works" legislation similar to the bills considered by Congress in 2008, or any legislation or regulation purporting to authorize mass digitization and distribution of digital copies without the permission of the holders of the rights to digital copying of the works being copied, would contravene the intent of the copyright clause of the U.S. Constitution and the letter of the Berne Convention and the WIPO Copyright Treaty....  Any "orphan works" scheme, even one that involves genuinely diligent, individualized manual searching for rightsholders, will inevitably conflict with ... normal modes of exploitation by writers of our copyrights, and will therefore violate the Berne Convention.

Following a second round of written "reply" comments (due March 6, 2013), the Copyright Office plans to hold hearings on this issue, in which the NWU expects to particpate, later in 2013.

Read the complete NWU submission to the Copyright Office (PDF)

More on "Orphan Works" and related issues from the NWU Book Division

"Kidnapped" (blog post by NWU member Ursula K. Le Guin, January 21, 2013)

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