Funny that Larry Lessig, the Stanford law professor who has evangelized free culture and copyright reform, stepped away from his work in this area yet decided to publish an op-ed in the NY Times coming out against the current orphan works legislation, despite the support it has within creative communities. He writes,

The proposed change is unfair because since 1978, the law has told creators that there was nothing they needed to do to protect their copyright. Many have relied on that promise. Likewise, the change is unfair to foreign copyright holders, who have little notice of arcane changes in Copyright Office procedures, and who will now find their copyrights vulnerable to willful infringement by Americans. Read the entire piece>>

He knocks the current proposed legislation in favor of a plan of repealing the copyright protection that has increased so dramatically in the past few decades. Gigi Sohn of Public Knowledge takes exception with Lessig’s plan.

Larry proposes as an alternative something that Public Knowledge wholeheartedly supports in concept: a 14-year copyright term, followed by a requirement that the copyright holder register the work and pay $1 to receive the full protection of copyright law. We like this idea because it could help to solve the damage to creativity and the public domain associated with longer copyright terms.

In practice however, this proposal has two major problems. First, it actually doesn’t solve the orphan works problem. Under Larry’s plan, works created between 1978 and today would be exempted at first. That’s a lot of orphans, and specifically a lot of web orphans. Even if that exemption were to expire, the 14-year initial copyright window would still give rise to orphan works, since many works cease being exploited after only a couple of years.

The second problem is more fundamental – and that is that right now, the proposal is completely politically infeasible. Regardless of the fact that nothing in Larry’s plan shortens the full term of copyright, the 14-year copyright plus renewal plan will be viewed as an effort to roll back term extensions. And as much as I would like that to happen, it won’t happen in this Congress, or in the next several Congresses to come. Read the entire post>>

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Tags: law, lessig, orphan works, public knowledge