I cannot recall any legislation regarding the rights of artists that has caused more consternation and downright hostility than the Orphan Works Act 2008. The act has consumed huge amounts of energy and endless posts in the blogosphere and print articles regarding it. The volume of activity alone ought to be enough to let legislators know it needs work before being brought to the floor for a vote.
Here is the description of the act from the Open Congress site:
Orphan Works Act 2008 - To provide a limitation on judicial remedies in copyright infringement cases involving orphan works. OpenCongress Summary:
Orphan Works Act 2008 - To provide a limitation on judicial remedies in copyright infringement cases involving orphan works.
This bill would limit the amount of damages a copyright holder could collect from an infringer if the infringer performed a diligent search for the copyright holder before using their work. The goal of the legislation is to free up for reuse copyrighted works whose holders cannot be found. It would also set up a process for the Copyright Office to certify commercially-produced visual registries to help people locate the holder of a copyright and prevent the orphaning of works in the future.
A good way to get started on making your own decisions is to to read the full House of Representatives version known as the Orphan Works Act 2008. It is neither long nor ladened with legalese for you to take time to read it. Open Congress provides this Bill Status Widget for you to keep a current update on the status of the bill on your site or blog.
"In the meantime, creators should be assured that the legislation does not change the fact that your work is copyrighted as soon as you create it."
If you want to see some balance, you can read Robert Rosenthal's plea and rationale for supporting the bill. He is in the Graphics Arts division of Princeton University. And, on the other side of the professorial coin, you can read Lawrence Lessig's op-ed piece from the New York Times here. Lessig is a law professor at Stanford. A quote from his piece:
This “reform” would be an amazingly onerous and inefficient change, which would unfairly and necessarily burden copyright holders with little return to the public.