What happens to the poor little copyrights no one cares about anymore? According to the law, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re orphaned (strangely enough) and the US Copyright Office thinks theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re becoming a problem.
Because copyrights extend through the duration of the authorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s life, plus 70 years, copyrights can trade heirs and companies so many times that the actual owners sometimes have no idea what they have. Investigating ownership can be expensive and unproductive, so there has been a movement lately to make these orphaned copyrights available via online databases for public use. If the actual owners find out and sue, the online archive providers cannot defend themselves. Rightly so, I think.
Does anyone else see a problem with freely placing these copyrighted materials in the public domain? Last time I checked, copyrights exist to protect against this kind of unfair use by others; just because someone is less likely to be sued while exploiting these copyrights doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean they have the right to do so. How could one legally draw up policy to allow this kind of use? How many times would a copyright have to change hands before it could be included on these sites? I am completely on board with the idea of placing written pieces online, but it has to be done so that the original authors receive remuneration for their work.