Friday, September 16, 2011

Due diligence do-over

In what I see as both a brave and an appropriate move, the University of Michigan admitted publicly that the Authors Guild had found some serious flaws in its process for identifying orphan works. The statement reaffirms the need to identify orphan works, and promises to revise its procedures.
"Having learned from our mistakes—we are, after all, an educational institution—we have already begun an examination of our procedures to identify the gaps that allowed volumes that are evidently not orphan works to be added to the list. Once we create a more robust, transparent, and fully documented process, we will proceed with the work, because we remain as certain as ever that our proposed uses of orphan works are lawful and important to the future of scholarship and the libraries that support it."
Among other things, what I find interesting in all this is that no one seems to be wondering why our copyright registration process is so broken that sometimes even the rights holders themselves don't know that they are the rights holders. It really shouldn't be this hard to find out if a work is covered by copyright. Larry Lessig covered this in his book "Free Culture," which is available online. The basic process of identifying copyrights is broken, and the burden is being placed on those who wish to make use of works. This is a clear anti-progress, pro-market bias in our copyright system.

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