The UK has recently passed the Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Act by Royal Assent, which, among other things, creates a method by which â€œOrphan Worksâ€ can be exploited. Simply put, if you are unable to identify the copyright holder of any photo, drawing, painting, music, film, etc. -- after conducting a â€œdiligent searchâ€-- then it may be considered an â€œOrphan Work.â€ This is a legitimate problem for many galleries, libraries, archives and museums that have acquired works over the years, as without knowing who created each, itâ€™s not possible to know whether copyright is still in effect. For example, If they use a photo to make a postcard to sell in their giftshop, and it turns out that the photographer is still alive they may find themselves in court fending off a copyright infringement.
In 2008 â€œorphan worksâ€ legislation was progressing through the US Congress. A bill did make it through the House, however no corresponding bill ever made it out of the Senate (you may recall fall 2008 was a little hectic what with near financial ruin due to the home mortgage derivatives market collapse). While many thought that would be the end of it, with the UK ERR act passage, this issue may be revisited sooner than some expected.
With all of this in mind, if you are going to share your images in the â€œWorld Wild Westâ€ here are some ways to make it easier to identify you as the creator/copyright holder of your digital photographs. Taking some (or all of these steps), should mean thereâ€™s little chance that youâ€™ll find your images being labeled as â€œorphan works.â€