The US Senate passed the "Shawn Bentley Orphan Works" Bill on 26 September. This Bill will facilitate the digitisation of works whose author is unknown by universities, archives and libraries, by limiting remedies in case of copyright infringements.
If passed, this law would allow for users to digitise orphan works - provided that they have performed a diligent search to try to find the author. The Bill instructs the Register of Copyrights to create guidelines on what constitutes a diligent search.
A user who uses a work without such a search could be liable for statutory damages up to $150,000. The Bill also prevents US courts ordering compensation for non-commercial use of such works by non profit-educational institutions, museums, libraries, archives and public broadcasters.
In Europe, stakeholders (including the European Federation of Journalists) produced joint voluntary guidelines on diligent searches for authors of apparently "orphaned" works. Legal remedies in case of copyright infringements remain subject to national legislation.
Read more about the US Bill: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/110-s2913/show
European Memorandum of Understanding on Diligent Search for Orphan Works: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/digital_libraries/doc/hleg/orphan/mou.pdf