Photo District News is reporting that the 'Orphan Works Legislation' has been killed, mostly by the photographer's lobby.
An 'Orphan Work' is one whose copyright owner cannot be found. The proposed legislation was going to allow publishers to reprint works if they promised to give the profits to the copyright holder should the author or estate show up to claim it.
Often I'm reading an out-of-print, hard-to-find book and decide it's wonderful and should be introduced to a new generation of readers. It's worthy of a reprint. Unfortunately, no publisher will touch an in-copyright book unless the rights-holder can be found, thus depriving publishers of money and readers of pleasure. So no reprint. Wait for a copy to appear at auction, or beg a photocopy from someone willing to infringe.
Sometimes the author dies or disappears while the book is in print. Authors Registry keeps a list of authors due more than $100,000 in royalties that cannot be found. In some cases this list is rediculous (they claim not to be able to find Bob Dylan) but in most cases the estate is just so clueless as to not know they are entitled to $100,000.
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