mfioretti: orphan works*

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  1. What amazes me is that this giant set of missing works isn't seen as a bigger deal by policy makers (outside of Reda). This is a massive loss for society and the public based on copyright today -- and could be easily avoided with a few basic changes to the law, including things like requiring registration of copyrights and, if not shortening the term length of copyright significantly, at the very least, requiring the copyright holder to re-register the work over time. As we've pointed out in the past, prior to the 1976 Act, copyright law required registrations and renewals (at the 26-year mark) and the vast majority of works were simply not renewed at that point, because there was no economic incentive to do so.
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  2. “During the First World War Centenary commemorations, many organisations want to make original unpublished works such as diaries and letters accessible to the public. Because they are still under copyright protection, they cannot do so without seeking permission from the rights holder. This is even more problematic if the rights holders are untraceable.

    We are asking everyone who cares about our history, everyone who cares about telling our collective story without restrictions, to join the campaign.”

    Up to 50% of archival records in the UK are ‘orphan works’. This is when the rights holder cannot be identified and/or traced. The Imperial War Museum has an estimated 1.75 million documents that are orphan works, approximately 20-25% of the 7.9 million documents in their collections.

    The campaign is calling on the UK Government to reduce the term of copyright protection in certain unpublished works from the end of the year 2039 to the author’s lifetime plus 70 years, as per provisions laid out in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act (ERRA) 2013.
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  3. Ogni anno, nel mondo, vengono realizzati circa 25.000 film. Di questi, meno di 500 arrivano fino alla distribuzione italiana. Eliminato il centinaio direttamente girato nel nostro paese e fatto un rapido calcolo, scopriamo di poter vedere meno del 2% della produzione mondiale. Un dato impressionante, che rimane tale anche scartando qualche migliaio di film che per vari motivi (mediocrità del prodotto, lontananza culturale, irreperibilità dei materiali) non ha proprio alcuna possibilità di arrivare in Italia”.

    Cos’è cambiato in questi tre anni? Poco. I film realizzati nel mondo sono addirittura aumentati, grazie a una generale diminuzione dei costi di produzione. Sono aumentate anche le modalità con le quali poter vedere i film, grazie all’arrivo di nuove piattaforme di fruizione online. Lavoro proprio in questo campo, e so benissimo come non sia per niente facile, e spesso ancor meno redditizio, portare in Italia film inediti, anche solo per poche rassegne o passaggi sul web.

    Il fatto è che molti di questi film sono davvero belli e interessanti. E, malgrado quanto detto, possono essere ritenuti dispersi ma non per questo dover essere invisibili. Escludendo le vie meno legali, ci sono comunque diverse possibilità per poterli recuperare, con i dvd o i bluray ormai facilmente acquistabili d’importazione e i fan sub, i sottotitoli creati dagli stessi spettatori, sempre più spesso disponibili in lingua italiana.
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  4. El artículo describe la problemática técnica, analítica y científica alrededor de la documentación musical como memoria patrimonial en Colombia; plantea algunas reflexiones críticas sobre su tratamiento y difusión, e ilustra, basado en experiencias y desarrollos concretos, las trayectorias técnicas y científicas que condujeron a la producción de estándares, el establecimiento de estructuras normativas y la organización de entidades a escala mundial, a partir de prácticas sistemáticas alrededor del documento musical, que proyecta su desarrollo y cualificación. El artículo describe cómo se produjo la cartografía de prácticas musicales en Colombia, una alternativa innovadora y compleja que se antepuso a las dificultades e hizo visible parte de la documentación musical que permanecía oculta como documento y conocimiento.
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  5. What works were at issue in Golan? As Breyer described, “foreign works published abroad after 1923, of which there are many millions, including films, works of art, innumerable photographs, and, of course, books – books that (in the absence of the statute) would assume their rightful places in computer-accessible databases, spreading knowledge throughout the world.” Moreover, many of these were obscure orphan works (works with no locatable rightsholder) that are now effectively off limits to educators, film collectors, community orchestras, and database compilers who previously had the right to use them for free.

    What are the limits on this decision? Could Congress recall the works of Shakespeare, Plato, Mozart and Melville from the public domain, and create new legalized monopolies over them? It is hard to imagine anything more contrary to the First Amendment – would privatizing Shakespeare by government decree abridge freedom of speech? – or to the attitudes of those who penned the Copyright Clause that limits Congress’s power to create new exclusive rights. Yet if one reads Golan, one searches in vain for any limiting principle on Congress’s actions. In this decision, Justice Ginsburg’s majority opinion effectively denies the public domain any meaningful Constitutional protection. Under the U.S. Constitution, says this case, the public domain is “public” only by sufferance. It may be privatized at any moment, at the whim of the Congress and without violating the Bill of Rights.
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  6. Most of the works highlighted here are famous – that is why we included them. And if that fame meant that the work was still being exploited commercially 28 years after its publication, the rights holders would probably renew the copyright. (This is true for many of the works featured on this page, though even the shorter copyright term exceeds the commercial lifespan of a surprising percentage of successful works.) But we know from the Copyright Office that 85% of authors did not renew their copyrights (for books, the number is even higher – 93% did not renew), since most works exhaust their commercial value very quickly.

    That means that all these examples from 1956 are only the tip of the iceberg. If the pre-1978 law were still in effect, we could have seen 85% of the works created in 1984 enter the public domain on January 1, 2013. Imagine what that would mean to our archives, our libraries, our schools and our culture. Such works could be digitized, preserved, and made available for education, for research, for future creators. Instead, they will remain under copyright for decades to come, perhaps even into the next century.

    Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the current copyright term is that in most cases, the cultural harm is not offset by any benefit to an author or rights holder. Unlike the famous works highlighted here, the vast majority of works from 1956 do not retain commercial value.3 This means that no one is benefiting from continued copyright, while the works remain both commercially unavailable and culturally off limits. The public loses the possibility of meaningful access for no good reason.
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  7. it seems like a good opportunity to recall the underlying complexities of calculating copyright term duration: If you have a fast internet connection and a big screen, you may want to take a look at this 25 MB pdf, which depicts the decision trees for 30 european jurisdictions that power the public domain calculators on
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  8. Creative Commons publishes six principal licenses. Two are free/libre licenses: the Sharealike license CC-BY-SA is a free/libre license with copyleft, and the Attribution license (CC-BY) is a free/libre license without copyleft. The other four are nonfree, either because they don't allow modification (ND, Noderivs) or because they don't allow commercial use (NC, Nocommercial).

    In my view, nonfree licenses are ok for works of art/entertainment, or that present personal viewpoints (such as this article itself). Those works aren't meant for doing a practical job, so the argument about the users' control does not apply. Thus, I do not object if they are published with the CC-BY-NC-ND license, which allows only noncommercial redistribution of exact copies.

    Use of this license for a work does not mean that you can't possibly publish that work commercially or with modifications. The license doesn't give permission for that, but you could ask the copyright holder for permission, perhaps offering a quid pro quo, and you might get it. It isn't automatic, but it isn't impossible.

    However, two of the nonfree CC licenses lead to the creation of works that can't in practice be published commercially, because there is no feasible way to ask for permission. These are CC-BY-NC and CC-BY-NC-SA, the two CC licenses that permit modification but not commercial use.
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  9. Sadly, this looks less likely to come to fruition thanks to opposition from collecting societies, who seem to think they have a right to payments even from libraries trying to do their job by helping the public gain access to information. Argentina's archaic copyright system may be very different, but its collecting societies are clearly no different from those in other countries.
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  10. Il 13 settembre 2012 il Parlamento europeo ha approvato in prima lettura la proposta di Direttiva del Parlamento europeo e del Consiglio su taluni usi consentiti di opere orfane.

    A questo punto, se anche il Consiglio si pronuncerà favorevolmente sul testo approvato dal Parlamento, la nuova Direttiva potrà finalmente entrare in vigore.

    La Direttiva si pone come traguardo quello di rendere libero l’utilizzo delle opere “orfane” da parte di biblioteche, istituti di istruzione, musei, archivi, istituti per il patrimonio cinematografico o sonoro ed emittenti di servizio pubblico, con l’obiettivo dichiarato di migliorare l’accesso al patrimonio culturale europeo da parte dei cittadini dell’Unione.

    Non ogni utilizzo sarà consentito ma solo la messa a disposizione del pubblico delle opere “orfane” presenti nelle collezioni dei beneficiari della Direttiva ovvero la loro riproduzione a fini di digitalizzazione, messa a disposizione, indicizzazione, catalogazione, conservazione o restauro.

    Per opere “orfane” si intendono quelle per le quali il titolare dei diritti non è stato individuato, ovvero, se anche sia stato individuato, non è stato comunque rintracciato.
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