Andrew Orlowski has an excellent article in The Register about proposed changes to the UK intellectual property laws regarding “orphan works” entitled “The ‘Google Review’: Opt in for your rights“.
The important thing about this is that it coincides with a renewed interest in orphan works in the US due to the failure of the “Google Books” case which was ruled improper by a U.S. District Court judge in New York earlier this year (2011). (See the “Mass Digitization Discussion Document” at the U.S. Copyright Office website.)
The concerns in the creative community (especially the visual artist community) is best exemplified by the Google Books case–give them an inch and they take a mile. Orphan works legislation was not ever intended to permit the mass digitization of entire libraries and was intended to present a method for potential users to find creators to seek a license. What the Google Books case clearly establishes (after Google scanned 15 million books and counting) is that care must be taken in crafting orphan works legislation not to create a de facto compulsory license.
This is the reference to “opt in to protect your rights” in the Orlowski article–the copyright law does not require creators to comply with particular registration requirements or other “formalities” (which are in fact prohibited by international treaty).
A quick read and highly informative for artists who want to understand their rights in the online world.
(The “Google Review” is a tounge-in-cheek reference to a UK government report that many believe was prompted almost entirely by Google due to the influence of Rachel Whetstone, head of worldwide communications for Google who is married to a close advisor to the UK Prime Minister.)