Overcoming Copyright Barriers to Our Cultural Heritage

Attention: hi-tech, business, educational and legal reporters

How do we increase digital access to films, books, music, and art whose owners can’t be found?

Media Contact: Susan Gluss (510) 642-6936, sgluss@law.berkeley.edu

WHAT: Orphan Works & Mass Digitization Symposium

Prominent experts will tackle related copyright problems: “orphan works”—the millions of films, books, music, and art whose owners can’t be found; and barriers to “mass digitization”—the legal quagmire that blocks the conversion of the world’s printed literature to digital. These issues are inextricably linked and restrict access to our cultural heritage. They chill creativity and innovation and limit the scope of research and education.

Copyright law makes it risky to digitize works without permission from rights holders. Even a single mistake can lead to enormous financial damages. It affects filmmakers who want to include historic images in documentaries; museums that want to exhibit archival documents, photographs, and oral histories; and libraries that want to offer access to millions of volumes of digitized books—many of which are orphaned. This also forms the crux of the Google Books lawsuit and proposed settlement, as authors and publishers still battle over the proper rules for accessing more than 20 million works the company has scanned.

The head of the U.S. Copyright Office, Maria Pallante, and panelists will address the perils and promise of orphan works and mass digitization. They’ll also proposed solutions, including “fair use,” which permits limited access to orphaned material to benefit the public.

The symposium is co-sponsored by UC Berkeley School of Law’s Berkeley Center for Law & Technology; the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic; and the Berkeley Technology Law Journal.

WHEN: Thurs., April 12, 8:30 am – 5:30 pm;
    Fri., April 13, 8:30 am-12:00 pm

WHERE: The Claremont Hotel, Berkeley, CA

WHO: Keynote: Maria Pallante, dir., U.S. Copyright Office


  • Brewster Kahle, founder, Internet Archive
  • Victor Perlman, general counsel, American Society of Media Photographers
  • Hal Varian, UC Berkeley iSchool
  • Pamela Samuelson, faculty dir., Berkeley Law Center for Law & Technology
  • Jule Sigall, assoc gen counsel, copyright, Microsoft
  • Jeremy Williams, sr. VP, Warner Brothers Entertainment

A full list of speakers is online here


RSVP: Media can register free for the conference here or go to: https://berkeleylaw.wufoo.com/forms/16th-annual-bclt-btlj-symposium-registration/

SOURCES: For information about the conference itself, contact Julia Tier, jtier@law.berkeley.edu, or 510-642-4712.

BACKGROUND: In 2006, the U.S. Copyright Office recommended legislation to allow the unlicensed use of copyrighted orphan works. This legislation passed the U.S. Senate in 2008, but stalled in the House due partly to the proposed Google Books settlement. That settlement would have entitled Google to commercialize all out of print books in its corpus, including orphans, as long as it provided a percentage of the revenues to a collecting society. Although a federal judge rejected the settlement, almost all agree that the benefits of access to orphan works and mass digitized collections are enormous. In fact, the question is not “should we do this,” but rather, “how should we do this?”

Papers presented at the symposium will be published in the next issue of the Berkeley Law Technology Journal.