Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Local Orphan Works update

This past Saturday I attended a local community forum on the Orphan Works legislation sponsored by Jim Cooper, the Congressman for Tennessee's 5th District and John Hall, a New York Congressman and singer/songwriter of The Orleans fame. Lucky for me living in Nashville means we get to be on the front row of intellectual property issues because of the music industry. Most of the people attending were songwriters or connected to the music industry but there was a scattering of visual artists in the group.

The group started by airing everyone's concerns regarding the legislation. Most everyone had the same complaints already heard about the bill; possibility of making everyone's work an orphan, flimsy language detailing what counts as a 'diligent search', financial hassle of having to re-register your work with an unknown amount of databases. For a full re-cap of problems go here. If there was anyone in the crowd supporting this bill they never spoke up. Then Cooper and Hall spoke on how they stand on the issue. Hall told an amusing anecdote about how the McCain campaign tried to use one of his most famous songs, You're Still the One, without compensation by claiming that the campaign couldn't find the author of the song. Since Congressman Hall appears as both a songwriter and performer in the song's credits and works just across the building from Senator McCain, Hall was a little surprised they couldn't find him. At any rate here was the big information we learned about what's happening with this on Capital Hill:

• Neither Cooper nor Hall support this bill. Cooper said he would "do anything he could to stop the bill."

• The bill is NOT being fast-tracked. This is a very good thing as this had been a concern that it would try to be passed by summer. Cooper said everyone is now tied up with appropriations.

• Cooper said the bigger fight on this would come next year when Congress reconvenes after the election.

• Right now no one in DC is talking about this, so clearly we need to step to the fight. There is the possibility of procedural maneuvers being used to bring the bill to a vote without debate but Cooper and Hall doubted that would happen especially since they could see that there was a groundswell of opposition to it even if its not being the hot topic on the Hill at the moment.

• Hall suggested the possibility of having a Judiciary Committee field hearing regarding the bill. He felt that in cities like Nashville where intellectual property is a significant part of our economy that the Committee could benefit from hearing the people's complaints first hand. I think this would be a good idea, and personally I'm all for getting this to happen.

• Neither Hall nor Cooper really knew what was happening in the Senate with the bill. Both said usually you can count on the Senate to not do much, however one of the bill's Senate sponsors is Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) and he tends to be a mover in the Senate. Anyone with ties to voters in Vermont needs to get on them about contacting Leahy to get off this bill.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Illustration Friday - Forgotten

My first Illustration Friday post. After reading about for a while about Illustration Friday, the creative mind expanding blog, I finally decided to try my hand at it. I hope I can keep up what with dividing my time between being a mom and cramming a 40 hour work week into 3 mother's day out days.

Anyway I sketched this about a year ago from the window of the Great Reading Room in the Nashville Library. You are pretty high up at that window and I noticed looking down on the roofs below that they would be a great place to come and get away from things. The girl wasn't there that day, but the shadows of pigeons as they swooped over the crumbling roof moldings gave me the sense that the space was waiting for something..... or someone.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Orphan Works

So its been a while since I posted and there's a very good reason for that, although its not the subject of this post..... but I might as well get it out there: It looks like the Fabulous Illustrator is working on a whole other kind of project - the kind that take 9 months to complete and makes you lose sleep afterwards. The deadline for this particular project is sometime around Christmas so that ought to be real interesting.

At any rate I have been meaning to post for a while about the Orphan Works Bill catastrophe that is striking visual artists currently. Simply put the Orphan Works Bill is a proposed legislation that would allow anyone searching for a copyright to a particular creative work and not finding it, to simply declare it an "orphaned work" and use it for whatever personal or commercial use desired. Should the owner of the copyright discover that his work has been thus pilfered, he would have to bear the burden of proof that the work was his and not the infringers. This is the opposite of the way copyright law reads currently. I strongly recommend listening to the interview with Illustrator's Partnership co-founder Brad Holland about this for a more in-depth view.

I had promised to post updates of the bill as it made its way through Congress. There have been several calls to write and call representatives and recently several visual artists as well as representatives from independent record labels convened on the Hill to express their displeasure with the folks that work for us (i.e. the politicians). Below is the report I just received on this:

Visual Artists Go to Washington, Independent Record Labels Oppose Orphan Works Act

Last week over two dozen visual artists, representing illustrators, photographers, fine artists and the arts licensing trades went to Capital Hill to explain to legislators how the Orphan Works Act will harm creators and the hundreds of thousands of art-related small businesses that serve and are dependent on them. At the same time, independent music labels have joined the opposition to orphan works legislation as it currently exists.

The Illustrators’ Partnership has stressed that Orphan Works legislation should be limited to true orphaned work and not act as an unwarranted compulsory license imposed on commercial markets. IPA, the Advertising Photographers of America and the Artists Rights Society have joined to offer amendments to that effect.

Excerpted from the Washington Internet Daily/Monday June 09, 2008:

The visual-arts community hit the Hill last week to protest what it portrays as a hijacking of the orphan-works issue as it was presented in a 2005 Copyright Office report...

The Copyright Office ran a bait-and-switch from its 2005 notice of intent, which focused on facilitating libraries', museums' and other nonprofits' efforts to digitize collections to improve access to them, [Illustrators’ Partnership co-founder Brad] Holland said. Artists want the issue narrowed back to that focus, scrapping commercial use, he said...Copyright Office roundtables on orphan works never addressed alternates to registries, an "untested, untried, unaccountable market system" favoring Google, Getty, Corbis and other commercial aggregators, Holland said. [Cynthia] Turner [also of the Partnership] said artists would incur high costs registering works, and they hesitate to hand over high-res, commercial versions to Google or others.

In the same article, Washington Internet Daily also reports that the leading group of independent music labels has broken with the corporate music trade associations. The American Association of Independent Music has published a position paper opposing the current orphan works bills. The article quotes a music industry executive: "I can tell you that nobody in the music business" sought the bill.

... the executive said the bill is "de facto... establishing a new compulsory license" by putting unregistered artists at a legal disadvantage in court. The law can't explicitly require registration or it will violate the Berne Convention, TRIPS and other treaties the U.S. has signed, the executive said. Book publishers and music executives in the U.K. think the U.S. will be in trouble, the executive said, citing a recent visit: "I can tell you there are European commissioners that are looking at this right now."
-Excerpts from “Orphan-Works Bills Scorned by Visual Arts, Indie Labels” by Greg Piper, Washington Internet Daily June 09, 2008