U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, introduced in the House today (May 23) the Orphan Works Act of 2006, which creates new guidelines for use of copyrighted material when the original owner cannot be loca

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, introduced in the House today (May 23) the Orphan Works Act of 2006, which creates new guidelines for use of copyrighted material when the original owner cannot be located.

"The orphan works issue arises when someone who wants to use a copyrighted work cannot find the owner, no matter how diligently they search," says Smith. "The owner may have moved several times, died, or in the case of businesses, changed their name or gone bankrupt."

Under current law, anyone who wants to use a copyrighted work that is not subject to a compulsory license must locate the owner and ask permission.

"Under the Orphan Works Act, they could follow guidelines posted by the Copyright Office as a show of due diligence to reduce the threat of litigation for simply doing the right thing," Smith says.

The bill, H.R. 5439, is the product of more than 20 hours of negotiations among various interested parties and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, which is chaired by Smith. It incorporates language from a year-long study conducted by the U.S. Copyright Office.

A mark-up hearing is scheduled for May 24 to fine-tune the proposed legislation

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