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An Update on Orphan Works

By George H. Pike


Copyright law seeks to find a balance between opposing interests. On the one side are the interests of copyright owners, those who have created works and are seeking both commercial return and creative control over those works. On the other side are the interests of users of copyrighted works, those who seek to use existing works to build and create new works. The Constitution, in permitting Congress to create copyright law, recognized this balance in its pronouncement that the purpose copyright is to “Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Over the last two centuries Congress has passed a number of copyright statutes to attempt to maintain this balance. The Copyright Act of 1976–with some changes such as the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)–is the current law. It replaced the earlier Copyright Act of 1909 as new media technologies and a changing society purported to upset the balance that had existed. But since the 1976 Act went into effect, technology and changes in our more media-driven society have made the copyright balance more difficult to achieve. In many respects, changes such as the CTEA and the DMCA have added to the difficulty. The issue of orphan works is one area where finding a balance within copyright law is proving challenging

Publisher: Learned Information, Inc., Medford, NJ
Year: 2006
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Provided by: D-Scholarship@Pitt

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