Kahle v. Gonzalez, 9th Cir January 22, 2007:
“Each Plaintiff provides, or intends to provide, access to works that allegedly
have little or no commercial value but remain under copyright
protection. The difficulty and expense of obtaining permission
to place those works on the Internet is overwhelming; owner-
ship of these “orphan” works is often difficult, and sometimes
impossible, to ascertain.
Prior to 1978, the number of orphaned works was limited
by the renewal requirement. Renewal served as a filter that
passed certain works — mostly those without commercial
value — into the public domain. Along with formalities such
as registration and notice (which have also been effectively
eliminated), renewal requirements created an “opt-in” system
of copyright in which protections were only available to those
who affirmatively acted to secure them. The majority of cre-
ative works were thus never copyrighted and only a small per-
centage were protected for the maximum term. ”
Discussion by Prof Patry here.