Rescuing Orphans: Can Congress Balance the Public Good and the Rights of Artists?
Copyright law is arcane enough, but a debate bubbling in Congress and among artists, libraries, and museums is important despite its obscurity.
The issue is "orphan works" - writing, photographs, paintings, and music whose copyright-holders are difficult (or impossible) to locate or contact.
Corynne McSherry, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the result is that a library or museum will not make the material available to the public because of the potential penalty of statutory damages - which have a ceiling of $150,000 per copyrighted item.
A museum is "worried that it might get sued," McSherry said. "So the material stays locked away."