The United States Copyright Office has recently issued a new report on “orphan works,” or copyright-protected work for which rights-holders are not determinable or contactable, as well as on digitization en masse.
From the Executive Summary on page 1:
This Report addresses two circumstances in which the accomplishment of [the] goal [to facilitate the dissemination of creative expression [as] an important means of fulfilling the constitutional mandate to “promote the Progress of Science” through the copyright system] may be hindered under the current law due to practical obstacles preventing good faith actors from securing permission to make productive uses of copyrighted works. First, with respect to orphan works, referred to as “perhaps the single greatest impediment to creating new works,” [footnote omitted], a user’s ability to seek permission or to negotiate licensing terms is compromised by the fact that, despite his or her diligent efforts, the user cannot identify or locate the copyright owner. Second, in the case of mass digitization – which involves making reproductions of many works, as well as possible efforts to make the works publicly accessible – obtaining permission is essentially impossible, not necessarily because of a lack of identifying information or the inability to contact the copyright owner, but because of the sheer number of individual permissions required.