Support the Orphan Works Act of 2008


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

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.


RE: The Orphan Works Act of 2008.

Below is the letter that I, as an image maker and photographer sent to my Congressional Representative and Senators. As a professional image maker, my perspective is no doubt a little different.


As a constituent, a photographer and a small business owner, I am writing to express my grave concern about The Orphan Works Act of 2008 -- S.2913. I am every concerned about this legislation and cannot emphasize how devastating this will be to my business and to thousands of small business owners around the country if enacted in a form THAT FAILS TO FIRST AND FOREMOST PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF THE IMAGE MAKERS. "Content" is critical to value. Without "content" our media is; a book without words, a movie theatre projecting a bare white light onto a silver screen, a stereo system playing a blank CD, a magazine without photographs or words. We absolutely and positively need to protect the rights of the content makers. Among other things, it is American Cultural Content that often has been a source of American 'Soft Power' , an item that has also risen in the context of American foreign policy incidentally.

Regarding S.2913 specifically; it should be written in a way that gives the image maker 'Passive Protections under the Law' as had been the case with the 1976 Copyright legislation. Once made, the maker owns the image and any and all rights associated with the image and the image maker can either license or sell those rights as the case might be PRIOR to formal registration. The Registration Process of an image , very useful to have on file especially in the event that a dispute should arise regarding infringement of rights and unauthorized use, should be one that is easy to comply with and fundamentally 'user friendly' for the creator of the image.

Also of some concern is how the current data-base as maintained by the Library of Congress Copyright Office is to become transferred to a yet to be created data-base. This is no idle matter. We are speaking of millions of images, some of incalculable value, whos' current copyright holders need to be assured of not losing ownership. This is serious.

These points are all essential to consider with care, and to keep foremost in mind as you look to the final wording of S.2913, the ill named "Orphan Works Act" -- which in actuality and in the everyday practical world deals with altering the Copyright Legislation of 1976 (as pertaining to visual works).

I noticed that Julie Melby has yet to respond to Theodor's challenge. Does this blog not care to engage in actual dialogue?


Artists and photographers will now be burdened with policing the net for infringers. Paying to register what should be ours by right. Works will be damaged by association with unsavory projects, because owners will no longer be able to protect their work and excercise their rights over their own artwork. Their creative talents will be wasted as they persue infringers drawn by the lure of free art/photos - this will not foster creativity. My customers want to be assured of the exclusivity of their usage as well. Now they are left wondering where they stand and how they can protect the rights that they PAID for in good faith. This bill was bought by those that stand to profit by ad sales and the sale of 'ORPHANED' artwork. Many creatives that participated in online communities, will be rudely awakened when the organizers sell them out, robbing them of their own works for profit. Berne says that no one can be compelled to participate in registries. Calling them "databases" that require "voluntary" participation in order to keep from being declared an orphan? still quacks like a duck to me.

Look how Public Knowledge and Alex Curtis contradict themselves!

Recent Comments

  • Spin: Look how Public Knowledge and Alex Curtis contradict themselves! read more
  • Val: Artists and photographers will now be burdened with policing the read more
  • Robert Rosenthal: I noticed that Julie Melby has yet to respond to read more
  • Theodor Feibel: RE: The Orphan Works Act of 2008. Below is the read more