In recent decades, Congress has elongated the term of copyright protection and eliminated the requirement that authors register and renew their copyrights. These changes, aimed partly at bringing our copyright system into line with Europe’s, have brought about significant collateral damage. They have resulted in a large population of orphan works—that is, works that remain under copyright protection but whose owners cannot be found. The uncertain ownership status of these works has hampered libraries, museums, and private companies from using them in ways that might be beneficial to the public. This Article proposes that the doctrine of adverse possession could be adapted to extinguish the copyright in these orphan works and free them for use by the general public.

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