Orphan Works Bill Deserves Support: RMS
Based on his email, it appears the bill may not be such a bad thing after all.
Here's an excerpt:
I discussed [the Orphan Works bill] with a lawyer (Dan Ravicher of the Software Freedom Law Center)... He said that the bill does not eliminate the rights of copyright owners who aren't found. Rather, it merely limits what damages they are entitled to recover from an infringer who, before commencing the infringement, attempted a good faith search to identify the owner and seek permission to do whatever is now considered infringement.
In essence, even if the defendant can prove he tried to find the author and couldn't, when the author later objects to the infringement, he can still sue and get money and an injunction. This bill merely places some limits on how much money can be recovered in such cases. It would not mean open-season on GPL-covered free software.
So I think we should support this bill. It does not go far enough; to make copyright law just requires larger reductions in copyright power. But as far as it goes, it is good.
Obviously, the founder of the Free Software Federation knows the score when it comes to copyright law, so I will have to defer to him on this issue.