Rhea Myers

Digital Economy Bill Orphan Works Panic

“Orphan Works” are copyrighted works where the rightsholder cannot be located to grant permission for the work to be used, usually some decades after the fact. They are a real and growing problem. One of the several positive features of the Gowers Report was its recommendation that this problem be tackled by the government.

Orphan works legislation was shouted down last year in the US. The reaction against the proposed legislation there was led by minor trade groups and concerned amateurs who stood to benefit financially or psychologically from defeating it.

A similar panic about the Digital Economy Bill’s clause 42 has arisen on the Internet here. Any professional illustrator or photographer will belong to an organization such as DACS that administers the copyright of their works. Yet a lot of familiar nonsense about the DEB imposing onerous new registration procedures and costs and “destroying copyright” has suddenly sprung up.

I don’t support bad legislation. The DEB needs throwing out. If it is not thrown out then clause 42 needs discussion and revision. But orphan works legislation is needed and does not place an undue burden on the (often soi disant) work-for-hire professionals who seem, frankly, most afraid of it. Since the arguments against orphan works legislation here are the same as in the US so, broadly, are the answers to them -



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