You would think that with the American economy in the trouble it is in, and the government trying to figure out a good way to spend the tax payers money, they wouldn’t have much time to worry about much else.

This was not the case last Friday night when the United States Senate passed the Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act. The bill was passed by unanimous consent and will now be forwarded to the House of Representatives. The question is now will the House of Representatives adopt the Senate version or change their own bill to match.

From the National Press Photographers Association:

An “orphan work” is a photograph or illustration that is protected by copyright but whose copyright owner cannot be identified or located. The purpose of the Orphan Works Act of 2008 is to unlock copyrighted works whose copyright owners are unknown or unable to be found, works that are said to be “orphaned.”


The Orphan Works Act will enable users to exhibit orphan works to the public if the copyright owners are unable to be located after a “thorough, documented search.” The legislation spells out the requirements that would be necessary to meet the standards of a search, and how a court can review the search to decide if it was adequate and done in good faith.


More than 70 organizations, including The National Press Photographers Association and the Imagery Alliance, and 100,000 visual artists have opposed the bill.


NPPA Advocacy Committee leaders are asking its members as well as all concerned photographers to contact their elected Representatives in the House immediately to voice objections to Orphan Works, and to ask their Representatives to not adopt the Senate’s language in S. 2913 and to not pass a similar measure.


You can find your Representative here, and a sample letter that you can “cut and paste” into an online letter to your Representative can be found here.

For more on the Bill, go to the National Press Photographers Association website HERE: and the press release on the Orphan works bill is HERE:


For more information on Orphan works, check out the article by NPPA Advocacy Committee chair and NPPA past president (and law student) Alicia Wagner Calzada, from the August 2008 issue of News Photographer magazine.