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On March 10–11, 2014, the United States Copyright Office (USCO) held a series of public roundtables in Washington, DC, exploring the question of “Orphan Works and Mass Digitization.”[1] Collectively, these discussion panels constituted a follow up to a Notice of Inquiry circulated by USCO in the fall of 2012, in response to which CAA filed reply comments in March 2013.[2] Given CAA’s long advocacy of legislation to offer protection to those individuals and institutions using orphan works, and after consulting with CAA members familiar with concerns related to orphan works,[3] I represented the organization in two sessions, one addressing the “Types of Works Subject to Orphan Works Legislation, Including Issues Related Specifically to Photographs” (Session 4) and the other “Types of Users and Uses Subject to Orphan Works Legislation” (Session 5).[4]

“Orphan works” constitute a class of materials for which no copyright owner can be located.[5] They have long posed a thorny challenge for scholars or artists who might seek to reproduce them, but who cannot locate the creator or a source from which to license them for purposes not considered “fair use.” As a publisher of leading journals—Art Bulletin and Art Journal, and—and an advocate for its members who might similarly seek to use orphan works, CAA has consistently argued in favor of orphan works legislation that 1) would significantly limit the liability of a user of an orphan work who had executed a diligent search for the work’s copyright owner, and 2) provide a safe harbor for not-for-profit cultural institutions, engaged in non-commercial activities, that had exercised similar care and that took steps to cease the infringement. At the same time, CAA has spoken to the importance of the attribution of the work and has argued that if a copyright holder comes forward that rights holder be entitled to a reasonable licensing fee if, indeed, the use is not considered “fair” as allowed under the law.

Consistent with positions taken by CAA previously, the organization argued that all copyrighted works, including photographs, should be protected by orphan works legislation. Photographs, which can be notoriously difficult to associate with their makers, have proven particularly tricky as a group of objects, actually being excepted from a directive, intended to facilitate the non-commercial public interest use of orphan works, passed by the European Union.[6] However, not to consider photographs as part of the larger category of orphan works would be extremely limiting from the perspective of CAA given the strong interest of its members in sources of visual information. Categorically excluding photographic and other works of visual art from orphan works eligibility would disadvantage users of images, including artists, scholars, and publishers, who would face continued risks of being sued for copyright infringement despite being unable to determine the identity of the copyright owner at the time of their use. The purpose of orphan works legislation is to mitigate the legal risk of using works that are part of our shared culture. It is because those risks can have chilling implications, adversely affecting creative work by artists and scholars, that CAA has been committed to support orphan works legislation.

Given the diverse range of purposes to which copies of orphan works might be put by its members, CAA has argued that both commercial and non-commercial uses of such material should be protected, given the extraordinary difficulty of teasing apart such interests. Because artists (like scholars) can be both creators and users of copyrighted items, they may seek to make and market work incorporating reproductions of orphan works. In similar fashion, academic or independent scholars or museum professionals make seek to illustrate orphan works in publications made available for sale. While recognizing that a voluntary registry (or registries) of copyrighted works, such as photographs might be useful, CAA does not endorse requiring such registration, nor does it feel that the terms of a “diligent search” for the holders of copyright of orphaned works should be prescribed, arguing instead that the best approach to such research would be better determined on a case-by-case basis.

Although previous legislation, S. 2913 (the Shawn Bentley Act) faltered in the House of Representatives in 2008, and was thus not enacted into law, USCO is now reexamining the potential value of pursuing orphan works legislation anew—both with regard to the occasional or isolated use of orphan works as well as mass digitization. These efforts reflect the influence of new technology and ongoing litigation, such as cases concerning Google Books and the HathiTrust, where mass digitization was found by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York to constitute “fair use.”[7]

The growing reliance of many libraries and archives upon the principle of “fair use” as a justification for digitization has led USCO to consider whether this defense obviates the need for orphan works legislation. CAA has argued that this is not the case, recognizing that some uses of copyrighted material may not constitute “fair use.” Thus CAA continues to appreciate the value of such legislation to clarify the class known as “orphan works” to protect the needs of its membership, even as it advocates for the development of best practices guidelines for the fair use of copyrighted material.

CAA intends to submit comments related to the roundtable by USCO’s filing deadline of April 14th. Should any CAA members wish to offer thoughts related to this topic to be considered in relation to such a filing by CAA, please contact Executive Director Linda Downs ( or President Anne Collins Goodyear ( by April 7th.


[1] For more information on this event and other Notices of Inquiry by the US Copyright Office (USCO) on this topic, please see: Transcripts and video of the roundtables will be posted when they become available on the website of the USCO.

[2] CAA’s submission of these comments is described in CAA’s resources on “Intellectual Property and the Arts” which provides a link to these comments:

[3] For their generosity with their time and expertise, I thank Jeffrey P. Cunard, Christine L. Sundt, Judy Metro, Doralynn Pines, Eve Sinaiko, Linda Downs, and Betty Leigh Hutcheson. Chris Sundt and Jeff Cunard generously provided comments on earlier drafts of this posting, for which I am grateful. CAA’s long history of involvement with orphan works is detailed in CAA’s recent submission of comments, prepared by CAA counsel Jeffrey P. Cunard, on Orphan Works and Mass Digitization to USCO, in March 2013; please see:

[4] Due to the strong outpouring of interest in the topic, participation by each organization had to be limited, and CAA prioritized these sessions.

[5] Further discussion of orphan works can be found on CAA’s website under “Intellectual Property and the Arts,” at

[6] These challenges and the directive passed by the European Union are discussed in the February 10, 2014 USCO Notice of Inquiry for Orphan Works and Mass Digitization, available at See specifically the discussion of the topics raised by Session 4: “Types of Works Subject to Orphan Works Legislation, Including Issues Related Specifically to Photographs.”

[7] For more information on these decisions, including links to them, please see: See and Andrew Albanese, “Google Scanning is Fair Use Says Judge,” Publishers Weekly, October 11, 2012. I thank Chris Sundt for recommending these resources.

Intellectual Property and the Arts

posted by Christopher Howard

The Committee on Intellectual Property (CIP) is pleased to announce the posting of the revised and expanded Intellectual Property and the Arts pages on CAA’s website. CIP monitors and interprets copyright legislation for the benefit of CAA’s various constituencies. In so doing, it seeks to offer educational programs and opportunities for discussion and debate in response to copyright legislation affecting educators, scholars, museum professionals, and artists.

The section is divided into the following eight categories: US Copyright: Fundamentals & Documents; Visual Art/Visual Artists; Publishing in the Visual Arts; Libraries, Archives, and Museums; Image Sources and Rights Clearance Agencies; Fair Use Guidelines, Practices, and Policies; Copyright Outside the United States; and Legal Assistance.

Education is essential for informed communication. The committee hopes that the resources presented in the updated pages will answer your questions about intellectual property and inform your discussions and debates.

This week CAA filed an amicus brief in the case of Golan v. Holder, which the United States Supreme Court will likely hear later this year. The issue raised in Golan v. Holder is whether Congress could, consistent with the First Amendment, remove certain foreign works from the public domain and bring them back into copyright after enacting the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) of 1994. A lower court, the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, held that the URAA was constitutional. When the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, Jeffrey P. Cunard, CAA’s counsel, was asked if CAA would join several like-minded organizations and individuals in signing onto a brief that would support the importance of the public domain.

The Executive Committee of the CAA Board of Directors considered the importance of the public domain (works no longer in copyright) as a wellspring of resources for artists, scholars, and other creators while discussing the detrimental effect of removing works from the public domain. The committee also noted that a filing by CAA in Golan v. Holder would be consistent with the organization’s filing of an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case of Eldred v. Ashcroft. In that 2003 decision, the court determined that Congress did not violate the First Amendment when it extended the term of copyright through the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. After reviewing drafts of the current brief, the Executive Committee authorized the filing of the Golan v. Holder brief on June 20, 2011.

To learn more about Golan v. Holder and the issues at stake, please review the following articles, published online in March and April 2011:

The principal author of the brief, Jennifer Urban of the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at the University of California’s School of Law in Berkeley, received assistance from Cunard and his firm, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. Others signing onto the brief include individual writers, musicians, and scholars as well as other organizations. Cunard extends his thanks to Anne Collins Goodyear, curator at the National Portrait Gallery and CAA vice president for Annual Conference, for providing the excellent example of a visual artist, Marcel Duchamp, using a public-domain work, the Mona Lisa, to create a new one (pp. 14–15). The brief also cites other artists, from Pablo Picasso and Jasper Johns to Banksy and Shepard Fairey. In addition, Cunard has noted the extensive reference to CAA’s involvement in the orphan-works proceeding (pp. 33–35), which helps the brief support the proposition that the URAA’s copyright restoration of many foreign works had exacerbated the orphan-works problem.

CAA’s involvement in Golan v. Holder is the latest event in its long history of advocacy efforts regarding freedom of speech and copyright issues. On behalf of all CAA members, the board is grateful to Cunard, one of the nation’s leading experts in copyright law, for the work he has put into the brief and for his continued support of the organization.

Free Public Program in New York on Orphan Works

posted by Christopher Howard

CAA invites members in the tristate area of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey to attend an upcoming panel on orphan works, entitled “Lost and Found: A Practical Look at Orphan Works.” The program is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Lost and Found: A Practical Look at Orphan Works
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Meeting Hall, New York City Bar Association, 42 West 44th Street, New York

How should the law treat “orphan works”? Please join us as we discuss proposals that would enable copyrighted works to be used when their owners cannot be located to obtain necessary permissions. What should be the obligations of potential users with respect to searching for copyright owners? How should infringement claims be handled if a copyright owner emerges? Do different types of copyrighted works present unique issues? What roles might registries and recognition and detection technologies play? Our speakers will address these and related questions, focusing on orphan images.

June M. Besek, executive director of the Kernochan Center for Law, Media, and the Arts, is the panel moderator. Speakers are:

  • Brendan M. Connell, Jr., Director and Counsel for Administration, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
  • Frederic Haber, Vice President and General Counsel, Copyright Clearance Center
  • Eugene H. Mopsik, Executive Director, American Society of Media Photographers
  • Maria Pallante, Associate Register for Policy and International Affairs, US Copyright Office
  • Charles Wright, Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Legal and Business Affairs, A&E Television Networks

“Lost and Found” is sponsored by the Art Law Committee (chaired by Virginia Rutledge) and the Copyright and Literary Property Committee (chaired by Joel L. Hecker) of the New York City Bar Association, in conjunction with Columbia Law School’s Kernochan Center for Law, Media, and the Arts.

Orphan-Works Legislation Dies in the House

posted by Christopher Howard

After a flurry of Congressional activity last week and the passing of the Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act in the Senate, Gigi Sohn of Public Knowledge (PK) notes, orphan-works legislation has died in the House of Representatives. She writes:

The negotiations went on for hours and hours on [October 2–3], but in the end, PK, working with the user community (libraries, documentary filmmakers, educational institutions and the College Art Association) could not agree with on language with the House staff…. Time had run out.

Though several matters remained unresolved, which Sohn discusses, she was proud of the progress made so far and is pleased that the issues surrounding the documentation of a good-faith search have been narrowed so that future legislative efforts may be more fruitful.

CAA Statement on Orphan-Works Legislation

posted by Christopher Howard

For several years, Congress has been considering legislation to address issues raised by orphan works. Orphan works are works that are still in copyright, but where the copyright holder cannot be found and the rights cleared. Most recently, in September 2008, the Senate passed S.2913, the Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008. CAA has been supporting this legislation, as a boon for both CAA’s artist and scholar members.

CAA is the nation’s largest organization representing the visual-arts communities. With its wide-ranging membership, including artists, scholars, museums, and other visual-arts professionals, CAA has been involved in discussions on orphan-work legislation from the beginning. With the assistance of anecdotes from scores of its members CAA filed substantial comments with the US Copyright Office in March 2005, identifying circumstances in which current copyright law impairs the use of orphan works in artistic and scholarly works alike and proposing a legislative approach that would balance the legitimate interest of creators, copyright owners, and users. CAA also participated in roundtable discussions held by the Copyright Office. In January 2006, the Copyright Office issued a report that cited the CAA’s comments and recommended adoption of orphan-works legislation, including conditions that would appropriately balance the interests of contemporary artists and other copyright owners with the interests of users of orphan works.

From the time that such legislation was first introduced, in May 2006, to implement the recommendations of the Copyright Office and, throughout the 110th Congress, CAA has been working with other organizations—including museums, universities, libraries, and commercial publishers, as well as the Copyright Office—in crafting orphan-works legislation. The purpose of the legislation is to amend the copyright law to allow orphan works to be used without an undue risk to the user—of statutory damages or an injunction—assuming that the user conducted a diligent search for the copyright owner and properly attributed the work as an orphan work. At the same time, CAA, with its membership of artists, designers, and photographers, has taken full account of their concerns that orphan-works legislation, if enacted, would allow bad-actor copyright infringers to avoid copyright liability. In particular, CAA is aware of fears that artists whose works cannot easily be signed, or have other identifying information attached to them, might readily become orphaned and, in this way, be used unfairly and unscrupulously, without appropriate compensation and attribution.

CAA supports legislation that would require users of orphan works to conduct diligent searches to identify and locate copyright owners as a precondition of works becoming eligible for orphan-works treatment. The search requirements that CAA supports are detailed and meaningful, but they also are not unduly burdensome. They include searches of Copyright Office records and the use of other appropriate databases and other resources. The requirement that the user conduct a diligent search, with the parameters of such a search elaborated in the legislation itself, is intended to ensure that copyright owners would not be at risk from bad-faith searches. CAA also has been working hard to ensure that, should there ever be litigation surrounding the use of an orphan work, the burden would be on the user to demonstrate that his or her search was diligent. In addition, CAA supports legislation that would permit courts to pay heed to best practices for searches that would be crafted by professional organizations, such as CAA. If the legislation is enacted, then CAA will be uniquely well-suited to develop and promulgate guidelines on best practices for searches, given the wide range of interests of its members and the wide spectrum of copyrighted works that they create and use.

Finally, CAA encourages artists to consider the advantages of registering their works with the US Copyright Office. Under the legislation supported by CAA, in coalition with other visual-arts organizations, ordinarily, for a search of an orphan-work copyright owner to qualify as diligent, the user generally should search the Copyright Office’s registration records, as reasonable under the circumstances. By registering their works, CAA’s members will be better able to protect their creative property while allowing for appropriate and lawful use under the copyright law.

Senate Passes Orphan Works Bill

posted by Christopher Howard

Daniel Barlow reports in the Rutland Herald that the US Senate passed the Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act (S.2913); the vote took place September 26, 2008. An “orphan work” is any copyrighted work—book or other text, picture, music, recording, film, etc.—whose copyright owner cannot be identified or located. According to the bill’s author, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), orphan-works legislation in the House of Representative (H.R.5889) will most likely not be voted on until after the presidential election in November.

CAA is working hard to ensure that a final bill will include language that gives professional groups—including such associations as CAA, professional photographers organizations, and others—the ability to define appropriate guidelines for what constitutes a sufficient search for a copyright holder. This in turn will allow organizations like CAA to ensure that artists’ copyrights are protected.

Marybeth Peters, the register of copyrights at the US Copyright Office, released a statement on the eve of the vote explaining the need for orphan-works legislation. For several years, CAA has been actively involved orphan works. For other copyright issues, see the Intellectual Property and the Arts section of the CAA website.

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