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IDA and FIND Present Their Case on Orphan Works to the House Judiciary Committee

Organizations Urge Congress to Reduce Risk for Independent Filmmakers

Michael Donaldson 4.2.14On Friday, April 4, 2014, the International Documentary Association and Film Independent, through attorney Michael C. Donaldson (pictured), testified before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C. Donaldson urged Congress to consider documentary and independent filmmakers when crafting new legislation on orphan works.

Orphan Works are copyright material whose owners cannot be found after a diligent search has been made. More specifically, he backed adoption of recommendations made by the Copyright Office in 2006. That approach called for a case-by-case solution which would impose limitations on remedies against users of orphan works in the event a rights holder emerged after the filmmaker had made a substantial search for the owner prior to the use. Under current law, a filmmaker is threatened with huge damages and injunctive release when they use unlicensed material, no matter how hard they looked for the owner.

Donaldson commented that, “Fair use can often provide a partial solution for the documentary filmmaker, but is not available to a feature filmmaker who wants to base a film on an orphaned book, or who wants to remake a wonderful, but orphaned film.” His testimony was in support of an Orphan Works bill that passed the Senate in 2008, but ultimately stalled in the House, and was in line with the comments he and the USC Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic filed last month with the Copyright Office (Comments: United States Copyright Office, Library of Congress, In the Matter of “Orphan Works and Mass Digitization,” Docket No. 2012-12)


April 10, 2014