Free the Orphans is a hybrid artistic research project that uses the phenomenon of the “orphan work”—a creative work whose copyright holder is impossible to identify, rendering it difficult to gain permission for distribution or use—to expose the paradox between the current ease of digital information dispersal and the existing regime of long-term copyright and granular control. The orphan work functions as an epistemological ready-made, a fragment of found knowledge whose legal and existential origins create a productive limbo. I suggest that we seek out these “orphan” prisoners and “free” them, bringing them back into circulation. In the piece, I use a variety of performative strategies to bring the audience into complicity with a reparative narrative of searching for, “fostering”, and restoring to view actual orphaned works. With my research, I braid together copyright law, digitization, intellectual property, and the life of information to examine the role of the orphan work in contemporary debates on intellectual property and the metaphysics of legality.
Free the Orphans was originally a thesis in fulfillment of a Masters of Fine Arts for the Digital and Interdisciplinary Art Practice program at City College of New York (CUNY)