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Congress Considers Reform On Orphaned Works 153

Posted by kdawson
from the mashup-with-daring-and-whimsy dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate to liberalize copyright law in the case of orphaned works. The almost-identical bills would limit the penalties for infringement in cases where the copyright holder could no longer be identified. The idea is that one could declare their intent to use the work with the Copyright Office and if the copyright holder didn't care to respond, they would only be able to get 'reasonable compensation' instead of excessive statutory penalties. Public Knowledge has more details on the bills."
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Congress Considers Reform On Orphaned Works

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  • by dreamchaser (49529) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @04:31PM (#23208764) Homepage Journal
    I did RTFA but I haven't yet read the text of the two bills (I'll get to it, I read a lot of bills...yeah I know, get a life). I would love to know what 'reasonable compensation' is. If the copyright holder cannot be found or doesn't exist, there should be no compensation if suddenly 10 years later someone who was once a member of the company that once held the copyright shows up and says give me money.
    • by yroJJory (559141) <me@j o r y . org> on Saturday April 26, 2008 @04:35PM (#23208790) Homepage
      The "reasonable compensation" argument is simply window dressing. What this bill is really about is making copyright registration mandatory if you want to ever get paid for your works. Currently, all creations are copyright the moment they are completed. Registration is optional, but helps in seeking legal actions against infringers.
      • Basically it seems like its going to hurt the little guy that doesn't know much about copyright law. The big corporations are still going to have their pack of lawyers constantly on this - they'll still get their $ while the little guy will lose.
        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Or it might hurt the little guy that makes a shareware program and abandons it (along with its sale). There have been several cases (in the distant past, now) where I've been interested in a shareware program, but the author/store/etc is dead and/or missing.
        • by KGIII (973947)
          To follow along with your thinking... Who's going to actually (and actively) monitor for this? I guess that, like the trademark, the burden of defending it will lie on the copyright holder who must also be vigilant to find potentially infringing uses.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by STrinity (723872)

          The big corporations are still going to have their pack of lawyers constantly on this - they'll still get their $ while the little guy will lose.
          That's generally true, but not universally. Look in the cheapie bin at your preferred DVD retailer and you'll find public domain releases of The Lucy Show, Beverly Hillbillies, Andy Griffith, Charade and His Girl Friday -- all films and TV shows that at some point a lawyer forgot to renew the copyright on.
        • by penix1 (722987)

          Basically it seems like its going to hurt the little guy that doesn't know much about copyright law. The big corporations are still going to have their pack of lawyers constantly on this - they'll still get their $ while the little guy will lose.

          This argument is pure horse shit and frankly I'm getting sick of the "Think Of The Little Guy" defense. Registration of copyright can be done online for little or no cost IF Congress mandated it with this legislation. All registration is is a big database. No reas

          • Because, you know, the government has a great organizational structure to handle lots of similar data being sent at them in a constant stream. (visit the DMV)

            Additionally, making everyone who invents something, ever, pay a small fee to the government, is a very prohibitive tax.
      • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @05:36PM (#23209088) Homepage
        That's basically right, and it's a good thing. Registration is traditional in the American copyright system, and we have not been without it for very long; just long enough to see how awful automatic copyright grants are. So long as copyright registration is but the most minor of hurdles (contact information for the applicant, a couple of copies of the work for the Library of Congress, a token fee), it will serve to make the copyright system available to help those who want it, while letting the public benefit from the works of authors who don't care about copyrights in the first place. There's no down side.

        That having been said, I'm not a fan of this particular bill. Shorter terms, non-automatic renewals, and timely registration as a prerequisite for copyright are much better, even though they'll take more work to achieve. I'd rather pursue that directly, rather than waste time on these mediocre reforms.
        • by shmlco (594907) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @07:08PM (#23209694) Homepage
          Putting on my tinfoil hat, why do I suspect that the big media companies have more to gain from this than anyone else? "Well, your Honor, we made a reasonable effort to find the author, couldn't do so... and then we made the movie."
          • by EMeta (860558)
            But guess what? This is exactly how it should work. If the content creator cannot be located by a google search or contacting the listed publisher (and 99% of judges won't allow "reasonable effort" without these), then the meta-creators shouldn't be burdened. If the original creator then shows up, he gets some money out of the deal--more than he would have gotten in the current system, while meta-creators aren't really able to use orphaned works for fear of multi-million lawsuits down the road. I unders
        • by Kjella (173770)

          So long as copyright registration is but the most minor of hurdles (contact information for the applicant, a couple of copies of the work for the Library of Congress, a token fee)

          ...times 163, presumably all different and most in foreign languages if you want the same copyright protection as today. Big corporations will have legal departments to handle all that, the little guy won't. Or was it just so American companies can scavenge everyone elses work while the rest of the world grants automatic copyright protection? I dobut the other signatories of the Berne convention will recognize the US copyright anymore unless the US recognize theirs... Sorry, but I think it's a good thing t

          • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @09:58PM (#23210776) Homepage
            ...times 163, presumably all different and most in foreign languages if you want the same copyright protection as today.

            Yes, that's right. Copyrights exist to cause authors to create and publish their works so that the public domain can be more enriched than it otherwise might be. However, if an author in country A simply doesn't care about -- i.e. wasn't incentivized by -- a copyright in country B, then why would it make sense for country B to give him the copyright? If it was important to the author, he would pursue it. If it is not important to him, he'll ignore it.

            If the author apparently doesn't care, why should I? And since the author seems to have been sufficiently incentivized by something else (possibly country A's copyrights, possibly something else altogether unrelated to copyright), it would be pointless to give him a copyright. It would be liking paying for something that's being given away for free!

            I am in the US, and I am really only interested in the US reforming its copyright laws. Since the US is a large market for many works, I have no doubt that very, very many foreign authors will register for copyrights, just as our domestic authors will. And if they're uninterested, then why give them what they are unwilling to get themselves? Maybe it will result in the work being made more popular here than it would be by an author who ignores the US market. That's a plus. And if nothing comes of it, then there's really no harm, and there is still the slight benefit of the work being available if that changes, which is unlikely.

            I would like to point out that I'm not playing favorites here; I think that the US should unilaterally offer national treatment. That is, we should permit foreign authors to get copyrights on exactly the same basis as US authors, with completely identical treatment. Further, that we should do so, regardless of how foreign countries behave toward us. After all, the mission of copyright is to spur the creation and publication of works in order to get them, unencumbered, into the hands of the public. The nationality of the author is quite irrelevant. Ditto for the language of the form; let there be Spanish and French and Arabic and Chinese forms as well, with enough translators at the Copyright Office to process them.

            I would hope, of course, that other countries would follow our example and also unilaterally grant national treatment to foreign authors. I'm not too worried about it, though. Remember, the US did perfectly well with not being a member of the Berne Convention (which sucks, btw) until 1989. In fact, joining it (and the ramp-up involved) is the source of many of the ills we currently suffer!

            Meanwhile, I'd like to point out that, AFAIK (I'm not a patent attorney), there is no reciprocity in the patent system. An inventor has to file for a patent in the US, if he wants rights there, in Japan, if he wants rights there, etc. having to deal with the local rules, which can vary wildly, retaining local experts, etc. A registration formality for copyrights would be a piece of cake, by comparison! I can't imagine the paperwork being difficult (name of author, title of work, etc.), and the various national post offices seem to have international mail under control, so deposit would be no problem. Unlike with patents, authors wouldn't need to hire local lawyers to handle the registration (though I wouldn't mind if they did, being a copyright lawyer myself!), and with the falling US dollar, what is a token fee here is likely even less of a hurdle for many foreigners.

            How is this bad? It means that if someone from Pottsylvania writes a book for local consumption, and never bothers to register it with the US, that it is in the American public domain, but does that harm him? No, not really; he was ignoring the US anyway. And if someone else does use the book, say, as the basis for a movie, well then at least something productive happened, instead of the author allowing it to rot on the vine. The author isn't being forced, he isn't bei
        • by eddeye (85134)

          So long as copyright registration is but the most minor of hurdles (contact information for the applicant, a couple of copies of the work for the Library of Congress, a token fee), it will serve to make the copyright system available to help those who want it, while letting the public benefit from the works of authors who don't care about copyrights in the first place.

          It's irrelevant. The TRIPS agreement [wikipedia.org] harmonizes intellectual property laws worldwide. It incorporates most of the Berne Convention [wikipedia.org] on cop

          • [TRIPS, one of the core WTO treaties,] incorporates most of the Berne Convention on copyright, which requires no formalities (e.g. registration) to obtain a copyright.

            But does Berne allow contracting states to require formalities, such as the payment of tax, to enforce a copyright? In the case of The Article's proposed public privileges in orphaned works, I would guess such privileges would pass the Berne Convention's three-step test [wikipedia.org]:

            1. "certain special cases": Limited to works where reasonable investigation does not turn up the copyright owner's identity.
            2. "which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work": Works to which this bill applies are no longer explo
      • The only people who are required to register are the people who want to use orphan works. Creators only have to register if they're suing... same as before.
      • Actually, it seems to be exactly the opposite. Right now if you don't register with the copyright office you can only sue for reasonable fees (IE, whatever you feel you should have been payed for your work, assuming a judge/jury agrees what you're asking is reasonable).

        This orphaned works bill wouldn't change that at all, rather, only registered works would be affected, and, if the rights holder is not reasonably available, the work effectively becomes unregistered.

        This still really only benefits big busin
      • by hey! (33014)
        Your assertion does not make sense to me.

        Non-registration does not preclude compensation. It precludes being awarded damages when someone uses your unregistered work without your permission.

        It seems to me that this simply eliminates damages as a primary vehicle of compensation.

        If you have a work you believe to be extremely economically valuable, you simply participate in the registration system. If you aren't sure, you do a risk/benefit analysis of participating. If you get it wrong, you'd be entitled to
    • by hey! (33014)
      According to the free on-line legal dictionary [thefreedictionary.com]:

      reasonable adj., adv. in law, just, rational, appropriate, ordinary or usual in the circumstances. It may refer to care, cause, compensation, doubt (in a criminal trial), and a host of other actions or activities.

      It's always tough to say what is reasonable after the fact, especially as compensation can be structured in many different ways: per copy, flat fee, sliding scale, share of profits. What is fair to impose after the fact isn't always the same as what

  • by yroJJory (559141) <me@j o r y . org> on Saturday April 26, 2008 @04:31PM (#23208770) Homepage
    This one's been lurking through congress lately. Basically, it's so big media conglomerates can use things they find on the web and places like YouTube without having to pay for them. It's all about protections for them and none for artists and creators.

    More to read here. [awn.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by thezig2 (1102967)
      I agree. Instead of having lighter penalties when the copyright holder can't be identified, make it based on the availability of the work. If the rights holder is making the work available (by putting it in a store, or for free on Youtube, etc.), then anybody else who wants to use the work has to pony up the existing penalties. If the work is no longer available new (like a book out of print), then the penalties should be lighter.
      • by dgatwood (11270) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @09:48PM (#23210726) Journal

        More than that, the penalties should be nonexistent provided that the person making it available does not make a profit doing so. Otherwise, it should be a flat rate statutory amount depending on the nature of the work.

        Particularly with music publishers, depending on the publisher, it can be a pain to (legally) perform out-of-print works if you don't have enough copies and can't buy more. I think that I should automatically have the right to make as many copies as needed to perform any out-of-print work under the condition that I agree to destroy the additional copies and purchase real copies if/when I find out that the work is in print again. It shouldn't be the end user's problem that the company is too lazy to do print-on-demand.... :-)

    • by bigskank (748551) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @04:50PM (#23208872)
      While it may be true that this is pushed by big media, I hardly see how this is failing to accord appropriate protections to so-called "amateur" creators. Amateurs, like anyone else, can fairly easily register any work which they create with the copyright office. Further, you can do something like stick an email address or other contact information on the video/image/webpage/etc... so that there is some way for anyone wanting to use your copyrighted work to contact you (this has the dual function of also identifying that the work has an active "owner" who needs to be contacted). Neither of those approaches is overly burdensome, even for amateurs.

      It seems that everyone favors liberalization of copyright laws only if it helps out the "little guy." Copyright needs to be a balance, allowing both large media holders and individual content creators to play fairly under the same set of rules. This bill would help achieve that.
      • Amateurs, like anyone else, can fairly easily register any work which they create with the copyright office.


        Even if you live in Sweden? Just think about it for 3 seconds, what if ALL countries did this? Should you have to register in all of them? America != the world.
        • Just think about it for 3 seconds, what if ALL countries [required registration of copyright]? Should you have to register in all of them?

          Register in each market's copyright office when you publish or exhibit a work in that market. For example, the EU might maintain a copyright office for all EU members to use, and Canada and Mexico might rely on a fellow NAFTA member's U.S. Copyright Office. Register in other markets when you enforce copyright in those markets, using the existing registrations in other markets to establish standing.

    • by Adambomb (118938) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @04:53PM (#23208896) Journal
      I do not understand how anyone can read these details and not see exactly what you're seeing.

      To expand on one of the why's for those that may question this, Corporations will have a department or at least a set of dedicated employees who do nothing but verify and respond to contested copyrights that they own. Individuals or small businesses may not be able to afford the manpower needed to manage such overhead. This means that corporations can keep a tight leash on their IP, while making use of material where the creator is identified as "not likely to keep up". Effectively, this increases the base "cost" of maintaining a stable of copyrights so that the riffraff will be right out (5mil$ at the door please).

      This is but one of the things such legislation is likely to be used for, and i'm sure others out there can point out more.
      • by smartaleckkill (1161259) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @05:33PM (#23209076)
        since 'copyleft' depends on copyright for any actual *legal weight* i'd guess there are potentially serious implications for FOSS, pretty much as a whole
        • by crosbie (446285)
          Copyleft doesn't really depend upon copyright, but upon public opprobrium.

          If MS overtly publishes a derivative of an 'orphaned' GPL work, they will find it particularly difficult to sue anyone for copying it. Moreover, you don't really need their source code - given they'll not be able to sell copies, they'll only be able to sell the source (which they will also be unable to prosecute anyone for copying).

          Copyleft is actually completely unaffected by whether copyright becomes stronger, weaker, or more expens
        • since 'copyleft' depends on copyright for any actual *legal weight* i'd guess there are potentially serious implications for FOSS
          That's why you sell the copyright in a major copylefted software project to one of the big names in the copyleft business, such as Red Hat, FSF, or Sun.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Indeed, how does this affect works by people who publish things on their blog or who are from abroad? If I, as a foreigner, write something in English (such as this text right here) and someone else comes along, likes it and wants to use it commercially, but they can't contact me because -obviously- I'm not going to bother to register everything that I write online, as over here I automatically hold copyright the moment I write something, would they be able to infringe on my copyright, without me being able
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ejecta (1167015)
      Yep, and then it will be a case of;

      LAWYER: Well your honour we made a good faith effort to find the copyright holder, but as we couldn't contact the holder we released an exact copy of all their work in a box set for $59.99 as it was no longer covered by copyright.

      JUDGE: What efforts did you undertake?

      LAWYER: Well, *cough* we looked for the most obscure and most likely to be out of date address and mailed in alleged copyright owner in the plainest and blandest envelope we could possibly find with a covering
    • supporting it? Along with libraries, archives, museums, etc.

      Both versions have protections for creators (in particular the House version, which might even go a bit overboard). At any rate, all the FUD being spread about the bill is disturbing (like requiring registration by creators, which is simply not true, or that it was written by big media, which is also not true).
  • Orphaned works should go into public domain.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by corsec67 (627446)
      How about anything goes into the public domain?

      A copyright term of infinity+ years isn't "limited".
      • by iminplaya (723125)
        Well, I was working within the context of the article, but yes I agree.

        Send in the clowns
      • by fyoder (857358)
        // Term of copyright is limited, and can be expressed as a conditional run annually:

        if ( about2expire(mickey_mouse) ) {
            copyright_term++;
        }

        // Once Micky Mouse ceases to be profitable, we will have established what the limit is.
        // I expect it may wind up being something like a thousand years.
  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @04:42PM (#23208824) Journal
    If the copyright holder can't be found or identified, why bother with limiting the penalties? Why not just make the work public domain?
    • by malinha (1273344)
      And if de holder can't be found, to who is the "penaltie" going to ? Who's getting the cash ?
      RI** ?? MP** ??
      • Nobody, until (if) theres a lawsuit. Only when theres a lawsuit will damages be limited.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hedwards (940851)
          Quite so, but it would be nice to have some sort of cost associated, such as the retail price for the work, adjusted for inflation. A limit of $100 or no more than double the original retail price adjusted for inflation, would do wonders even. That's probably a bit on the generous side to the owners of the materials, but it's better than what we have.

          The biggest problem with this sort of legislation is that the attorney fees are a part of what makes this kind of suit so expensive for the losing side. If the
          • what we need is more rewards for producing the more artistically challenging works. The ones that require real risk and sacrifice to create.

            If the product requires real risk and sacrifice to create, copyright registration should only be a very minor obstacle.

            We might even see a few low cost 'registrars' whom the creator can just send an electronic copy of the work and for, say $30, will take care of all the work. We might even see places willing to do the filing pro-bono, in exchange for a nice cut of any awards fees from violations down the line. Just one win against Disney could pay for tens of thousands of filings.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      If the copyright holder can't be found or identified, why bother with limiting the penalties? Why not just make the work public domain?
      Maybe the copyright holder died and his/her children don't dig up the copyrighted work or documentation about the work for a decade or two.

      The work is still under copyright and the children of the now deceased copyright holder can still make claims on the work.

      Making it public domain opens up a whole new can of worms.
      • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @05:29PM (#23209052) Journal
        Actually, making it public domain makes sure a whole can of worms doesn't get opened.
        • A whole can of worms. I could see this being used to strip plenty of small time authors of rightful copyright protection.
          I haven't read the bills, but your idea is like a Louis Black joke,"Hey Congress has got a really sh***y idea, let's make it even worse!". If the bill doesn't allow for the age of a copyrighted material to be considered, then anyone who writes anything on the internet or self-publishes, could see all of their copyrights disappear in days from publishing. Whereas things that are old (say 1
    • by quantaman (517394)

      If the copyright holder can't be found or identified, why bother with limiting the penalties? Why not just make the work public domain?
      Identified by who?

      Not all copyrights are registered and there's no sure way to tell if a work is truly abandoned or if you you just haven't found the holder.
    • I think they are leaving room for error in their methods of locating the copyright holder. Just because they could not be found (or do not respond to the request), does not mean they do not exist. Whatever method and timetable they intend to employ here with regard to seeking permission of the copyright holder; it can be assumed that it will be insufficient from time to time. In these cases it could be unfair to simply strip them of their copyright if they were unable to respond.

      But, my optimistic int
    • by gronofer (838299)

      If the copyright holder can't be found or identified, why bother with limiting the penalties? Why not just make the work public domain?

      Because it may turn out to be a foreign copyright holder? What then for all those international treaties the USA is always boosting?

      The USA seems like an unlikely country to be promoting copyright reform.

  • It seems as though, unless it is done somewhat carefully, this could place too much of a burden on copyright holders. Suppose I want to freely copy some popular song. I register ten thousand intents to do so with the copyright office. (or ten thousand people register one such intent) If the copyright holder fails to respond to even one such request, they lose some of the rights they previously had to control the use of their work.

    That said, I expect that it is not too difficult to close this spamming loop
  • One thing they would need to do is put a time
    limit for making a compensation claim
  • would limit the penalties for infringement in cases where the copyright holder could no longer be identified.
    Aren't RIAA, MPAA and BSA members The Copyright Holders of Everything (R) ?

    Does that mean, "when the members can't decide which of them will get the propriety of that piece of work" ?
    • by quanticle (843097) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @05:28PM (#23209044) Homepage

      No. This means that when the members of the RIAA/MPAA/BSA want to use someone else's work, they only have to show that they "couldn't identify" the copyright holder, and so can use work while paying only a token penalty. Basically, now a small copyright holder has to undertake the same sort of monitoring as a large record studio. Otherwise they risk having their work appropriated by larger corporation.

      • by yar (170650)
        No to you as well. :P

        Under both bills, if a copyright holder identifies their work being used, the user of the orphan work has to compensate them.

        Furthermore, the proposed definitions of what constitutes a "reasonable" search are pretty heinous. It seems like they were expecting this "big corporations" scenario rather than the people who legitimately need to use orphan works.
      • by stinerman (812158)
        And maybe if the small copyright holder cared one iota about their work, they'd register it.
  • There should be something additional in the proposed bill: A time limit for the copyright holder to respond, say, 90 days. In other words, if it is believed that the copyright holder no longer exists (the person is dead or the company went out of business), the request is filed at the copyright office. The party filing the request could choose to use the material immediately, and pay the reasonable fee if the copyright holder comes forward. However, since you have no idea what "reasonable fee" the copyright
    • by Gutboy (587531)
      So the copyright holder has to constantly check with the copyright office to make sure no one has requested the use of any of their copyrights? Since this is a government endevor, what will happen is that the copyright holder will be given a long list of all the copyright requests and be required to sift through to make sure that none of their copyrights are in there. They will not be able to say "hey, I have copyright on X, is anyone requesting to use it?" as that would make the government employees have t
  • seems like it would then be possible to claim copyright on the works of another as long as you file before they do

    tag: whatcouldpossiblygowrong ?
    • by vidarh (309115)
      The possibility of registering your copyright has "always" existed. In fact, it used to be mandatory to do so to get copyright protection. This doesn't alter the risk of someone fraudulently registering for copyright in a work they didn't create. Neither does it change the fact that doing so is clearly illegal.
    • seems like it would then be possible to claim copyright on the works of another as long as you file before they do
      Yes, it's possible to defraud the United States Copyright Office. But if the actual author of a work catches you doing so, prepare to have your behind handed to you in court.
  • by davolfman (1245316) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @05:25PM (#23209026)
    This has been discussed many places and the consensus is that it severely weakens private copyright. With this an artist who shows work low-res online could be anonymized by someone else grabbing the work to post on a forum or the like. This breaks the chain and makes the artist impossible to track. This isn't a problem if you're the RIAA or other MAFIAA as your spy network will catch it for you, but for the little guy, such as ever private artist and photographer out there this is total murder.

    When you think about it this has mostly just been produced as a bandaid to allow things like archiving to occur in the absence of a strong public domain and working fair use.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Think about it. This will effectively eliminate copyright on the internet, at least for anything that can't be automatically identified with 100% accuracy.

      If this becomes law, Napster will reappear. Every time someone offers a song, the new napster will not know who owns the copyright. So they will send it off to the copyright office to be identified. After the first few billion, the copyright office will be so far behind that effectively nothing will ever get processed and now all the record companies
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Hatta (162192)
        Want to ruin some bureaucrat's day? Let's find out if goatse is copyrighted.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        So they will send it off to the copyright office to be identified.
         
        Nice thought, but that's not how it will work.
         
        TFA says that private outfits of some kind will have certified databases to identify works, and you send your stuff to them for identification along with an as-yet unspecified fee. So the New Napster would require tens of billions of dollars to send out for identification fees for those billions of songs....
    • by yar (170650)
      Consensus? Really? :P

      A great deal of the discussion that has taken place in the 'net is FUD, spread initially by certain individuals in an illustrator's group. Those particular discussions, in fact, took place BEFORE the text of the bills was released to the public, and pretty much panicked the readers.

      At any rate, if the person's work is identified, that person will be compensated.
  • Congress Considers Reform On Orphaned Works

    I think that We the People are long overdue to consider reform on Congress itself. After all ... they're the reason we're in need of copyright and patent reform in the first place!
    • Reform on Congress happens every 2 years. It's called "election."
      • by belg4mit (152620)
        Sorry, no. Macbeth is still Macbeth, even with a different cast.
      • by CSMatt (1175471)
        Not as long as there are no term limits for Congressional seats.

        It's even worse in the Senate than the House. Some members of the Senate have served for over 30 years.
        • by stinerman (812158)

          Not as long as there are no term limits for Congressional seats.

          Actually it's gerrymandering [wikipedia.org] that's the real problem. Term limits don't mean jack when a district is a one-party district. The district where I grew up (OH-05) hasn't elected a Democratic congressman since the Great Depression.

          It's even worse in the Senate than the House. Some members of the Senate have served for over 30 years.

          Well, Senators are re-elected 1/3 as much as representatives, so getting re-elected twice nets an 18-year career.

  • This reform should have been done years ago, but this still doesn't go far enough.

    I suppose it's meaningful that some folks in Congress are just now beginning to see that copyright is a very important issue in the information age.

    Now, if they would just undo the copyright laws they've passed since 1995, that would be a good start. And then they can undo some more, until the copyright period is reasonable - somewhere between 10 and 30 years. Once they get THAT done, THEN they can address trickier issue

  • As a content creator, having to register my work with the Copyright Office is the bane of my existence. Why should I have to spend hours sitting in an office sifting through my work to sort out published from unpublished, declaring each published work (where there might be 600 such works in a registration) as a separate line-item on a form, then pay $45 per registration just for the privilege of being able to claim my rights?!

    And then if I ever decide to sue Disney or whomever because they used something of
    • by Kalriath (849904) *
      $45? Woah. Our country doesn't even HAVE a registration system here, so I don't feel your pain in the slightest.

      Flip side though, our trademarks and patents have exponentially increasing rates. A trademark costs $112 to register, but $281 every 10 years to renew. Patents are even more vicious: 4th year renewal is $191. 7th year renewal is $382. 10th year renewal is $607. 13th (and final) year renewal is $1125.

      Though for some reason, we can register the physical appearance of an object (e.g. we can't
      • by compro01 (777531)

        Though for some reason, we can register the physical appearance of an object (e.g. we can't copyright forks, but we can register the design of a particular fork and sue anyone who makes one looking like ours. Weird).
        i believe that's called a design patent. the US has the same thing.
    • by mr_tenor (310787)
      http://mag.awn.com/index.php?ltype=pageone&article_no=3605 [awn.com]

      I couldn't bring myself to read more than half of this, as the author seems grossly misinformed on Copyright, but the bit about paying money to private registries sounds a bit worrying. Does anyone know more about this?
      • by stinerman (812158)
        The only US Copyright registry is the government-run one. In fact the author states this (but calls it private because he's on a SERIOUS RANT)

        privately run (by the friends and cronies of the U.S. government) registries

        Copyright.gov:

        In general, copyright registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular copyright. However, registration is not a condition of copyright protection. Even though registration is not a requirement for protection, the copyright l

  • They could set up a system -- gee, a lot like the old one, it turns out -- in which for most cases a person has to CLAIM a copyright, rather than copyrights just sort of happening automatically. If we went back to that system, a large number of the copyright "issues" we see today would simply disappear back into the dark hole they came from when copyright law was "improved".
  • by westlake (615356) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @07:27PM (#23209824)
    one day, you come across a vintage graphic from the 1960s at a yard sale; it would be perfect for your next video, you know exactly how you want to use it, but it contains no copyright information. New Orphaned Works Act would limit copyright liability [arstechnica.com]

    I know that forty years sounds like eternity to the eternally adolescent Geek - but your treasure trove will almost certainly turn out to be an instantly recognizable icon of commercial art and illustration.

    The page clipped from Life magazine, the poster that was taped to a dorm room wall.

    What looks like a "good faith effort" to you may may look pathetically inadequate and self-serving to a judge. It is altogether too easy not to find what you don't want to find.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The orphaned works problem was arguably created by grossly excessive copyright extensions. The simple solution is a return to reasonable copyright terms, say, 20 years with an optional 20 year extension for registered copyrights.

    These bills would create privately owned and operated copyright registration databases. How much will it cost me to register my copyrights? As a photographer, I create thousands of copyrighted works every year. Even if the price is less than $1.00 per work, I can't afford it. Once a
  • From the article:

    Congress is now taking a stab at solving the problem with two new bills just introduced by Howard Berman (D-CA) in the House and by Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in the Senate
    Call me paranoid, but if Berman introduced this bill than there must be some angle.
  • Here in Norway we have automatic copyright, with no registration nessescary. So anything I produce would basically be up for grabs by any U.S. legal entity?
  • ...seeing as most Slashdot users think every 'artist's works should never be copyrighted anyway - that any image, sound file, movie clip, etc. on the web is fair game for taking and using however they see fit, including verbatim, and that 'artist's should just find some other line of work if they want fair appropriation or - daresay - compensation for their work...

    The GPL License is based largely on copyright. You violate the license, you enter the domain of copyright. You violate copyright, you can be su
  • How the fuck is this supposed to work internationally ? Oh , sorry the copyright holder isn't American so the US copyright office doesn't know him, his work is now free for all ? So let me see if I get this right, US media companies can put threaten our ministers, bribe our police force, and launch DDOS attacks against our web-pages, then ignore the copyright of Swedish artists without consequences, and apparently we are supposed to feel bad about file-sharing because we ought to respect international treat
  • This is an idea that's far more than overdue. "Submarine Copyright Infringement" claims should have been outlawed long ago - especially with statutory damages to unreasonably high now. This doesn't hurt the author of the work at all since s/he will still get the compensation they would have gotten from the beginning if they had been found. I am just so sick and tired of copyright suits - the latest on the movie Charlie Wilson's War - that start out by demanding that all distribution of the infringing wor
  • Making these changes to copyright law, regardless of whether they're net beneficial to multinational corporations or individuals, means little with the international agreements on copyright. An American multinational corporation may do their "owner search" and find nothing, but still be on the hook when the true owner is outside the United States. United States limitations don't matter to a copyright holder suing from Canada to a Canadian operation.
  • Are we trying to put the entire creative sector out of business here?

    If I had to put a copyright claim out for every single piece of work I had, it would quickly engulf any profits I had made on those works. Hell, DeviantArt alone has over 56 MILLION images in its repositories - are we supposed to believe that everyone is going to rush out and get those images copyrighted immediately?

    If you're looking to crush small businesses, this is the way to do it.

    (Hell, the art communities threw their arms up in the a
    • by yar (170650)
      Funny, the art communities only received the text of the bill TWO DAYS AGO. The people who were spreading the FUD about the bill were mostly people who had no idea what they were talking about. And even some of the people who did see the bill still had no idea what they were talking about. :P

      The bill in no way requires you or anyone else to register your works any more than existing copyright law does.

      To reply bluntly, this is how the Internet pisses me off. :P
  • It's good that Congress recognizes the importance of reforming law on orphaned works, but this is the wrong way.

    Congress should simply require copyright registration for all works every 10 years, for $1/registration, with submission of an electronic copy (or approximation thereof when that's not feasible). Once you don't renew, your work falls in the public domain. The list of all currently registered works should be published.

    It's simple, reduces bureaucracy, is self-funding, and it creates legal certain
  • Both bills require a "good faith effort" to find a rights holder. Such loosely defined terms are fodder for litigation. Registration provides a clear-cut way to prove rights or lack therof. How about automatic registration for a short term like 5 years, and then required registration after that? Then creators wouldn't have to register anything until it proved itself valuable enough, and re-users would only have to establish that material is more than 5 years old and not registered. Is that too simple for th
  • I put out a GPL'd plugin for Winamp about seven years ago. For various reasons, mostly lack of time due to the birth of a child, I stopped working on it, and the project languished.

    If I read this right, some big company could say they couldn't find me, put up some notice with the copyright office that I likely wouldn't notice, and then later take the software I wrote and put it in a proprietary app against my will by giving me some low cash payment.

    Now my particular software wasn't great shakes, but isn't

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