Apr 2, 2008

after April fooling

Photo by Rick Prelinger:
March 29, 2008, Howard Besser (in T-shirt) chairs the Orphan Works session. At left, Peter Decherney.

As per Orphans tradition, I sent out an April 1 e-mail to all symposiasts/ orphanistas. Said April Fool's Day message purported to be an Associate Press news item about the Library of Congress advocating copyright reform -- in part because of the influence of the 6th Orphan Film Symposium.

Apologies to anyone who glanced at the AP mock-up and presumed this was a real and true news story.

For the record, here's what it said [with corrections added]:

Apr 1 [ ;>) ], 7:54 PM EDT

Library of Congress Advocates for "Orphan Works"

WASHINGTON, DC (AP [not really; just an AP mocku-up]) -- Librarian of Congress James H. Billington issued his annual report on the state of American libraries and archives
[the Librarian does issue such an annual report], surprising some observers by adding unexpected caveats to the otherwise pro forma statement. In particular, the Librarian noted the need for a dramatic turn in copyright law [He has not.].

"Without a new emphasis on protecting so-called 'orphan works,'" Billington wrote, "archives across the United States be increasingly paralyzed in their most basic conservation and preservation services." The need to protect the estimated 10 million
[a made-up figure] books, films, and audio recordings in copyright limbo will soon outrank the need to preserve classic Hollywood movies and best-selling novels.

Intellectual property law professor Haden Wright-Fuller
[no such person ] of Duke University responded with surprise to the Librarian's new direction. Writing on his blog [no link here; no blog[ Tuesday, Wright-Fuller cited the influence of recent Supreme Court decisions on Billington's policy recommendations. "Without question, the
majority opinions in
Eldred v. Ashcroft [the 7-2 majority rejected Eldred et al's argument] and more recently in the so-called 'orphan film' case of Kahle v. ABC-Disney [no such case] have placed pressure on the Copyright Office and the Congress to look beyond the positions staked out by the Motion Picture Association and media conglomerates."

Promising [not] further comment in the coming months, Billington cryptically suggested, in language buried in an appendix to the report, that he was swayed by debate at the recent Orphan Film Symposium [if only... Suffice it to say that a Saturday, March 29 discussion at Orphans 6 could not have affected a report issued the following Tuesday] . The symposium took place at New York University on March 29th and brought artists, filmmakers, distributors, scholars and archivists together.

Reacting to news of the Librarian's caveat, filmmaker and preservation advocate Martin Scorsese
[of course Mr. S was not part of this fictitious dialog] called it "a significant boon to the survivial of America's film heritage, as expressed through its orphan films."

The White House expressed no opinion on the matter.
[This is true.]

[Apologies to Dr. Billington, who in fact HAS presided over the era of 'orphan works' and also advocated exemptions from some copyright strictures when those exemptions clearly serve the public good.]

All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
[This is the boilerplate of AP and many others. But it does not apply to this blog posting. Anyone may publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this text. In fact, everyone is encouraged to do so, so long as you mention 'orphan works' or 'orphan films.']