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Association of Research Libraries (ARL®)

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Prue Adler
Copyright & Intellectual Property Policies

Orphan Works

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In 2005, the US Copyright Office received hundreds of comments from a wide range of interests on issues concerning "orphan works." The office defines these works as those whose owners are difficult or even impossible to locate. In its January 21, 2005, Notice of Inquiry (NOI), the office stated that "the public interest may be harmed when works cannot be made available to the public due to the uncertainty over its copyright ownership and status, even when there is no longer any living person or legal entity claiming ownership of the copyright or the owner no longer has any objection to such use." The NOI also acknowledged "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."

ARL, as a member of the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), submitted comments on the Copyright Office NOI, March 25, 2005 [PDF]. The LCA wrote in support of the proposal advanced by the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic and continues to work on this issue.