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

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