U.S. Copyright for Genealogists – Orphan Works

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U.S. Copyright for Genealogists – Orphan Works

U.S. Copyright for Genealogists – Orphan Works addresses one of the most important legal issues genealogists face.

U.S. Copyright for Genealogists – Orphan WorksLast week I provided a link to downloadable handy guide for genealogists on the complex issue of copyright in the United States.

Today let’s talk about a situation genealogists run into a lot. Orphan works are defined as a work in which the owner cannot be identified and located by someone who seeks permission to use the copyrighted work.

Archivists Heather Briston, Mark Allen Greene, Cathy Henderson, Peter Hirtle, Peter Jaszi, William Maher, Aprille Cooke McKay, Richard Pearce-Moses, and Merrilee Proffit have compiled a guide describing what professional archivists consider to be best practices regarding reasonable efforts to identify and locate rights holders.

To better understand copyright and orphan works, professional archivists have compiled a best practices document to help genealogists and others who need to understand copyright and use.

Visit this link to download the Society of American Archivists’ (SAA) best practices document to help clarify how you can use orphan works for genealogy research.

The SAA statement includes:

“Orphan works” is a term used to describe the situation in which the owner of a copyrighted work cannot be identified and located by someone who wishes to make use of the work in a manner that requires permission of the copyright owner. Proposed orphan works legislation, such as the Orphan Works Act of 2008 (H.R. 5889) and the Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008 (S.2913), would reduce penalties for infringement if an infringer “undertakes a diligent effort to locate the owner of the infringed copyright.” This statement describes what professional archivists consider to be best practices regarding reasonable efforts to identify and locate rights holders. It is based on the authors’ knowledge of the kinds of materials that are likely to qualify as orphan works and on their professional experience in trying to obtain rights information for such works in the past.

Although the statement focuses on unpublished materials because these are the types of materials that are usually found in archives, the authors recognize that many of the techniques that are useful in identifying rights holders for unpublished materials may also be useful in identifying and locating rights holders of published materials.

For more posts about copyright and genealogy, click here.

By |27 Sep 2011|Genealogy|Comments Off on U.S. Copyright for Genealogists – Orphan Works

About the Author:

Nancy Loe has an MA in American History and an MLS in Library Science and Archives. She has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, at Rootstech, SCGS Jamboree, and state and regional genealogy conferences. Her website was featured in Family Tree Magazine's “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow.”