Who owns the rights to genealogy books years after they go out of print? How can we legally preserve the information in these books so that it is easily available to future generations? The rights belong to the copyright holder and his or her heirs for many years. However, these heirs often cannot be found. The present U.S. copyright laws make this difficult, but a new lawsuit may change all that.
Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, and Rick Prelinger, a film collector, want permission to digitize these so-called orphan works to create online libraries for free public access. In a suit filed in March, the plaintiffs in Kahle v. Ashcroft argue that multiple changes to copyright law have essentially made it impossible for works to return to the public domain. They want to have these changes declared unconstitutional.
You can read about this new lawsuit on Wired News' Web site at http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,64494,00.html. The article never mentions genealogy books, but the story seems to be especially appropriate to those works.