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U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case challenging the copyright protection given to so-called "orphan" works, or material for which the owner can't be found. Currently, books, movies and other material are entitled to copyright protection that lasts for the author's life and an additional 70 years. After the author has died, an heir often owns the copyright but can transfer that right. The problem arises when the copyright is transferred so many times that it's no longer apparent who owns it. Sometimes books and the like have been out of circulation for so long that the actual owners don't even realize they have a claim. Legal experts say that locating the copyright owners in these situations is often a daunting and expensive task. Copyright expert Eric Goldman says in such cases, no one benefits by the current regime, which exposes anyone who posts orphan works to liability for copyright infringement. The U.S. Copyright Office agrees, "There is good evidence that the orphan works problem is real and warrants attention." (Online Media Daily 1/9/08)

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