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Lessig on the Proposed Orphaned Works Act: “Unfair and Unwise”

Publication Date: 
May 20, 2008
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog
Ashby Jones

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog discusses Larry Lessig's op-ed in the New York Times about "orphaned works":

If you manage to check out one item this week on copyright law (excepting, of course, any copyright posts that show up here on the Law Blog), we’d encourage you to check out Larry Lessig’s op-ed in today’s NYT on the proposed Orphaned Works Act being kicked around Congress. To our minds, the piece was clear, persuasive and — perhaps most importantly — relatively short.


So what should Congress do? Lessig suggests taking a page out of the patent-law books: Congress should require a copyright owner to register a work after an initial 14-year term of automatic and full protection.

“A hired expert shouldn’t be required for an orchestra to know if it can perform a work composed during World War II or for a small museum to know whether it can put a photograph from the New Deal on its Web site. In a digital age, knowing the law should be simple and cheap. Congress should be pushing for rules that encourage clarity, not more work for copyright experts.”