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Cyberlaw Clinic Chief On 'Orphan Works' Bill

Publication Date: 
April 26, 2008
Andrew Noyes

Visiting Professor and Cyberlaw Clinic Interim Director Jennifer Urban is quoted in CongressDaily's Tech Daily Dose blog explaining new legislation that would make it easier for filmmakers and others to use "orphan works"--works whose owners can't be identified or found:

Jennifer Urban, interim director of Stanford Law School's Cyberlaw Clinic, offered us insight on the introduction of House and Senate legislation last week that would change how the U.S. copyright regime deals with "orphan works" -- content whose owners cannot be easily identified. She said the bills set a balanced framework for allowing filmmakers, libraries and others to move forward when they cannot find the owner of a copyrighted work.

With today's lengthy copyright terms, corporations go defunct and heirs lose interest or are never aware of the work, Urban pointed out. Plus, works that owners never found economically valuable (old family film footage, photographs) are covered by copyright and are therefore too risky to use if the owner can't be found. Content that is not economically valuable can still be incredibly culturally valuable, she added.

Urban and her squad of cyberlaw students have been representing independent and documentary filmmakers for three years as they have weighed in and helped shape the reform effort. "There is still work to be done, but the introduction of these bills is a big step forward," she said.