Orphaned Works and Copyright
SUMMARY: “The Copyright Office seeks to examine the issues raised by ‘orphan works,” i.e., copyrighted works whose owners are difficult or even impossible to locate. Concerns have been raised that the uncertainty surrounding ownership of such works might needlessly discourage subsequent creators and users from incorporating such works in new creative efforts or making such works available to the public. This notice requests written comments from all interested parties. Specifically, the Office is seeking comments on whether there are compelling concerns raised by orphan works that merit a legislative, regulatory or other solution, and what type of solution could effectively address these concerns without conflicting with the legitimate interests of authors and right holders.” [Federal Register, January 26, 2005…thanks Heidi]
If you are or will be digitizing parts of your collections, you might want to comment. Right now, the copyright is in effect whether there is an owner or not. This makes it very difficult to ask permission to scan or otherwise digitize specific works; basically you have to wait until the work is in the public domain.