The bill would allow libraries and others to use copyrighted works of indeterminate origin after a "diligent effort" to find who the owner is. But Lessig argues that "diligent" has a slippery definition. "The only beneficiaries would be the new class of 'diligent effort' searchers who would be a drain on library budgets," he writes.
Lessig's solution would be to give creators and automatic copyright for 14 years, and then require registration to receive continued copyright protection. (A 14-year copyright was the term endorsed by the nation's founders.) That would represent a partial rollback of the 1978 Copyright Act, which changed U.S. copyrights from an opt-in to an opt-out system.
Surprisingly (to me, at least) Lessig also says the bill is too easy on potential copyright infringers, who could be excused from "significant damages" if they can prove they made a diligent effort to find the copyright owner.
That puts Prof. Lessig out of step with the Electronic Frontier Foundation—which strongly supports the bill—as well as Public Knowledge, which says that a good Orphan Works bill should put a low damages cap (like $200 low) on payouts to a previously-unknown copyright holder who emerges and claims infringement.