Orphan Works Act and the New Congress?

November 17th, 2006 | Posted in News

After last week’s elections and the resulting majority of a different party in the House and Senate, I know the biggest question burning in everyone’s mind… how will this affect the proposes Orphan Works legislation? Good question:



It’s not yet clear how the post-election power shift in Congress will affect the Orphan Works bill. It’s possible that one, maybe both, of the intellectual property subcommittees will be chaired by lawmakers who have been responsive to the concerns of visual artists. Yet, as legal analyst David Carney writes in the Tech Law Journal, “the orphan works bill “has broad bipartisan support,” and with a full Congressional term ahead, he predicts it “will likely be approved in the 110th Congress.”

Last September, the bill died in the House Judiciary committee because Congress adjourned. Had it passed then, a last-minute “manager’s amendment” would have delayed the effective date of its application to illustrations, photographs, etc., requiring the Copyright Office to first create a text-based database for visual works.

The manager’s amendment was drafted during the August recess to meet the objections of visual artists. Representative Howard Berman (Dem-CA), who may become new chairman of the subcommittee, told the Tech Law Journal that the manager’s amendment “satisfied” his concerns about the bill, although he added “Whether it would have been taken up in the Senate, I’m not sure.”

The Senate may still introduce a separate Orphan Works bill. Senator Patrick Leahy (Dem-Vermont) is likely to resume chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. As a photographer himself, he has been especially sympathetic to our concerns. It was Senator Leahy’s office that invited the Illustrator’s Partnership to testify against the bill last April.

The new Congress convenes in January. We’ll keep you posted.

For additional information about Orphan Works developments, go to the IPA Orphan Works Resource Page for Artists


Personally I don’t think it will matter. This is the kind of issue that can be afforded bi-partisan support because it is meaningless to the average American and therefore a non-polarizing issue. The special interest money spends just as well on the left as it does on the right when there is no party platform plank that needs to be blindly adhered to.

On a side note, neither major party has an actual majority in the senate. It’s 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and 2 Independents (although they say they will ‘side’ with the Dems). What does that mean? It means the two independents are looking forward to at least two years of being wined and dined like no senators have been in ages, that’s what it means!


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New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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