I love archival materials. It is one of the main reasons I wanted to be a historian. But, there are many legal problems associated with their use. My inquiry into copyright began because I wanted to know more about fair use and copyright, but I soon found that that was not where the problem was greatest. It is with the orphan works in the unpublished arena. Here is one example. I work with the Papers of Vera Brittain, a well-studied World War I writer. But to my knowledge no one has used her vast collection of fan mail – people who responded to her memoir with their own stories. But how is one to track down these people – from the 1930s to the 1960s? The orphan work problem inhibits one’s scholarship.
E. Townsend in a blog entry on Oprhan works