Sunday, October 4, 2009

Owned Works Need Not Be Mistaken For "Orphaned Works"

The perils of copyright theft plague all creative markets in this digital world. I read a post about e-books and their challenge to track unauthorized use. My comments to that author are appropriate here, as well.

Two dynamics are converging. Every creative work put online exposes it to theft. And, a major movement (Orphan Works) is pushing to change the rules to make "fair game" of all unidentified content (thus diminishing the value of current law that says it's copyrighted even if not credited).

The problem is the worst in the photo space. Almost all web sites use images. Some estimates say there are a hundred uncredited copies online for every legitimately licensed image. There are 2-3 trillion images already online (and exposed to theft) with billions being uploaded monthly. And, stolen images are rarely attributed to their authors.

Several companies provide "detective" services to find infringers for a share of the revenue. The solution we've created is to enable every copy of a content file at any web site, regardless of language, to link back to its rights holder via an open registry. In this way, owned works need not be mistaken for "orphaned works". Though launched in the photo industry, this technology and approach would work for e-books, as well.

The essential ingredient to solve the problem of unauthorized use is a registry. Knowing who owns what is mission critical in getting permission for use. Once owners are identified, rights holders and the market will ultimately determine a fair price for use, which could range from being free (ie, Creative Commons or sharing ad revenue) to the opposite extreme, which could one day be a government-mandated compulsory license. Solutions to industry problems are readily available. Education and adoption are needed.

Randy Taylor
The Copyright Registry at

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