January 28, 2005 · Lessig
As is old news (but everything on the Lessig Blog is old news), the Copyright Office has asked for comments on whether a solution is needed to deal with “orphan works” — works still under copyright but whose owner cannot be identified.
This, as PublicKnowledge notes, fantastic news. For many years, many have been trying to refocus this debate on copyright from the binary questions that p2p sharing seems to raise (“seems to”) to the more pragmatic and fundamental questions that this insanely inefficient and bizarrely complex system of speech regulation called copyright raises. When Congress shifted our system of copyright from an “opt-in” to an “opt-out” regime, it transformed copyright from a system that automatically narrowed its protection (and hence regulation) to those works that had some continuing need for copyright protection, to a system that totally indiscriminately spreads copyright to every creative work reduced to a tangible form — automatically, and for the full term of copyright.
But this is an issue that I’ve only become aware of because of the writings and emails from many who visit this space. And it is time for you to speak to government. No one who read the emails that I’ve collected could think that this was not a problem. But the copyright office doesn’t accept email inboxes. It reads submissions only. The requirements are simple. Submission is free. We’ll be organizing as many submissions as we can at eldred.cc. But please help spread the word: The Copyright Office needs to hear about every example of where the existing system is stifling the cultivation and spread of our culture. Not because Congress extends the term of copyright for Mickey Mouse. That battle is over. But because the way in which it protects Mickey Mouse blocks access to the balance of our copyrighted culture – for no good copyright, or free speech, related reason. This point is clear to many. You need to make it clear to the government.