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Subcommittee Hearing Statement on Copyright Office Report on Orphan Works

Location: Washington, DC

Subcommittee Hearing Statement on Copyright Office Report on Orphan Works

Early last year, Mr. Berman and I sent letters to the Copyright Office supporting their efforts to attempt to study the orphan works issue.

I'm pleased to see that so many individuals and groups across the country participated by submitting testimony and appearing at roundtables in Washington and California.

The orphan works issue arises when someone who wants to use a copyrighted work and cannot find the owner, no matter how diligent a search for that owner is. The owner may have moved several times, died, or in the case of corporate owners, may have changed names or been bought out. This leaves the potential user who wants to do the right thing by paying the copyright owner of a photograph, book, or other work a reasonable royalty with no options.

Responding to this issue, the Copyright Office has released suggested statutory language that they believe will address the orphan works issue in a balanced manner.

I have heard from a number of interested parties on the orphan works issue and the language suggested by the Copyright Office, ranging from potential owners and users of orphan works to others who are merely concerned about the impact of any new orphan works legislation on existing statutes.

Highlighting the importance of this issue to the photographic community, David Trust, one of our witnesses today, flew up last spring from Atlanta to meet with my staff on this issue.

I have long been a proponent of strong copyright protections and will continue to be one. Thus I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today who are seeking to address the orphan works issue by limiting the remedies for specific uses of orphan works.

It is crucial for me to know that copyright owners can still receive a fair royalty under an effective system if the owner does reappear to claim ownership of his work.

I recognize that some copyright owners, such as photographers, illustrators, and artists, have unique business issues that are different from those of other copyright owners. I look forward to hearing of their specific concerns and whether or not the suggested language has adequately addressed them or can be modified to do so in either statutory or report language.

I also recognize that not everyone is satisfied with the language suggested by the Copyright Office. Numerous interested parties have been meeting among themselves to develop modifications to the language in order to better protect their interests. I would strongly encourage such negotiations to continue since it is my desire to move a consensus orphan works bill this year.

However, consensus in Congress does not require unanimity. Parties that feel that they can simply stop the legislative process by failing to negotiate in good faith, or at all, tend to be ignored. While I know that all of the groups represented today have been negotiating in good faith, there are others that need to know that their active participation is crucial for their interests to be protected.

As is the custom of this Committee, the hearing record will remain open for seven days to allow other interested groups to submit written testimony for the record. All of your written statements will be made a part of the record by unanimous consent.

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