So many of you have probably seen my postings about the Orphan Works legislation that has been circulating in Congress this year, if you haven't seen my earlier posts then check them out here and here. Some are pretty long but worth reading. Unfortunately I have a new development to report on that is ridiculous not just for the impact on this legislation, but also, in my opinion, also for the procedure used to pass it:
On Friday afternoon, in the midst of the bailout hoopla, the Senate passed the Orphan Works Bill of 2008 using a procedure known as hotlining. Never heard of that? Neither had I until a couple of months ago when they first tried it. I'll explain in a minute, first let me register my extreme displeasure with my elected officials for passing this bill that would, in the words of David Rhodes president of the School of Visual Arts, "socialize the expense of copyright protection while privatizing the profits of creative endeavors." The main problem with this legislation is that it redefines the concept of copyright as something that is the exclusive private property of the creator (to share or not share as he likes) to something that the public has a primary right to use and it is the creator's obligation to make it available. Think about that one for a minute. What if a law were passed that made it a homeowners' obligation to open their backyard for any stranger who wanted to park there just because they might like your proximity to a tourist attraction? That is the same thing this bill does except instead of some stranger tampering with a flower bed, these will be tampering with artwork that many of us poured our blood, sweat, tears, dreams and aspirations into.
Now is not the time to give up however. Plan B is to stop the House Judiciary Committee from folding their version of the bill and just adopting the Senate's. Doing that would make it much easier for this thing to pass, so lets keep it stalled in committee. Contact your representatives and tell them to oppose the Senate's version (or really, could we just trash this thing altogether?) Go here for an easy link to contact your representative.
Now about ridiculous part number 2. This bill was hotlined, to read a thorough definition of what hotlining is go here. Essentially it's where the 2 party leaders agree to call all their members (using a special hotline installed in the Senate offices) and if no one registers an objection or a "hold" then the bill is passed by "unanimous consent" (UC). Unfortunately that is a misnomer because often no details about the bill have been made public nor has there been any public debate. Even more insane is the fact that a constituent cannot easily find out how their Senator "voted", since it doesn't even have to be a senator that places the hold, or agrees to consent, it can be done by any staff member who answers the phone even without the senator's knowledge.
And lest you think this is something done only for "minor" legislation or non-controversial bills, get this: In the 05-06 Congress only 21 bills of 341 under consideration received a floor vote, with 94% passing on a voice vote or UC. Somehow I don't think 94% of that stuff was non-controversial. Wow, unelected individuals having a major say in how our laws are changed and our money is spent? NOW how do like your tax dollars at work?
So at the moment I'm pissed not only because someone is out there trying to snatch my copyrights away but also because my senators didn't give enough of a damn about my small business to have a real hearing on this matter. Yet they want me to foot the bill so their huge campaign contributors can save their businesses "that are too big to fail"???!!! I think not. Thank goodness for free speech so I can tell them to kiss my a**.