Foster the Light: Orphan works and Underrepresented Communities


Historically disadvantaged groups such as women, the LGBT community, and minority groups have often been underrepresented and overlooked as creative communities. For this reason there has also been a lack of intellectual property protections for works created by individuals categorized within these groups. This is due to a number of factors: the need for authors to register works to receive US copyright protections; the adherence to strict formalities for works created before the 1976 revisions in copyright law; and the limited options for these individuals for the fixation of their work through publication. The effect of this underrepresentation is an abundance of orphan works : works in which the author and/or rights holder cannot be readily identified. In a society that has only begun to acknowledge the cultural narratives of these disenfranchised groups, it has become paramount for institutions such as libraries and museums to collect, exhibit, and make accessible these important works to the public. But how can cultural institutions make orphan works available without causing inadvertent harm to the rights holders? This presentation will explore in detail the reasons why these works have become orphans, methodologies for seeking out rights holders, and ways to balance intellectual property protections for creatives while also allowing institutions the ability to make accessible these vital works to its patrons.


Kiowa Hammons is the Rights Clearance Coordinator for The New York Public Library's Copyright and Information Policy Division. His responsibilities at the library include copyright research for the library's collections, metadata implementation, securing permissions and licenses with rights holders, and coordinating with staff for proposed digitization projects. Kiowa holds a Masters in Library and Information Sciences from the Pratt Institute.