Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Writer's Day: Orphan Works

Over the last few months I’ve been writing a lot of guest blogs to promote my new book, writing about India, photography, food, plotting, and other aspects of my series. I have completed or signed up for 20 posts and have several more to do. I think every post has to be different, and so far each one is. I love the story behind this book, the story in it, and writing it. I always seem to find something new to say about it, but in this post I'm doing something different.

On my own blog I write all sorts of things, including about a toaster that died and the gifts a dear friend left behind after her death. Sometimes I rack my brain to come up with something, and sometimes I come up with nothing. Last night, I listened to five writers talk about blogging and how they use it, their expectations and surprises. The results for all of them have been a surprise, edifying and fun and often unexpected. The program was presented by the Gloucester Writers Center and held at the Rocky Neck Art Colony Center.

So, today, I’m adding in a little of what I as a writer do every day. The first thing on my desk this morning is to report on the effort in Congress to consider legislation governing so-called orphan works of art and literature. This legislation would allow a publisher, journal, or anyone else to take over a book, for example, and reprint it for their own financial benefit if they deem the book to be an “orphan.” What is an “orphan” book? This is a book whose author, or copyright holder, cannot be located.

Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Every writer who reads this should be fully alert by now. Just how does someone decide the copyright holder cannot be located? Who decides if sufficient effort has been made? If due diligence has been conducted? Therein lies the problem. We have already faced this challenge in one form, and the Authors Guild and other writers’ groups, including the National Writers Union, beat back efforts to claim “orphan” works for another project. Now the discussion is back.

Today is the last day for comments to the Library of Congress on this topic. If you want to offer your opinion, you can do so online. You are asked to complete a form and attach your comments. The comments must be received by 5:00 pm today.

To learn more about why this matters, go to and scroll down to the center of the page.

It is common to say that writers write. Indeed we do. But we also attend programs to learn more, lobby for or against legislation that affects us, send off books for charity events, teach classes, and read to the dog if no one else is around to listen to our current WIP.

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