What Do Authors Fear from "Orphan Works" Licensing Proposals?

By Edward Hasbrouck, The Practical Nomad


Earlier this month I represented the National Writers Union at a fascinating high-level symposium at Berkeley on so-called "orphan works" -- written and other publications, the holders of certain reproduction rights to which cannot be identified and/or found by some or all of those who want to reproduce those works.

Slides of presentations and papers from the conference, including the white paper on Facts and Fallacies of Orphan Works (PDF) that I submitted with the endorsement of the NWU, have been posted online. Audio archive of soem sessions have also been posted, and more will hopefully be made available eventually.

Many well-meaning librarians and other advocates for public access to information at the conference found it difficult to understand why writers would object to proposed schemes that would allow works deemed "orphaned" to be copied for certain purposes, by certain users, without those users having to get permission from the authors or other holders of rights to those works.

"What's the problem? What are you afraid of?"

It annoys me that so many librarians and others whose livelihoods depend on the work of writers in creating the books they use have so little understanding of our working lives that they need to ask this question. Nevertheless, the question reflects what is often sincere puzzlement, and deserves a serious answer. Here's a first attempt to provide one... 4/26/2012