On April 24, 2008, the Orphan Works Act was introduced into the U.S. House and Senate. These two bills are cited as the ‘‘Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008’’, and the Orphan Act of 2008. Markup of this Bently bill is scheduled for Thursday, May 15. You need to act immediately by signing the petition opposing this Legislation (see the link in the above paragraph to Diane Clancy’s blog-bill-update). Currently, copyright is granted the moment a work is created. The Orphan Act Legislation proposes a change in U.S. copyright that would require artists, illustrators, photographers, and any creative individual to actively maintain and defend their copyright by registering each and every work with privatized registrars. Failure to do so would leave everything you’ve ever created as an artist up for grabs by anyone who wanted to copy, reproduce, create derivative works of, or flat out steal your work since the act defines an “orphan work” as any work where the author is unidentifiable or unlocatable, and applies to both published and unpublished works, U.S. and foreign, regardless of age.
I am sure that many of you who are reading are thinking how does this affect me; I am just a self-employed person with artistic abilities who sells my work over the internet. One that piece of work is placed onto an Internet site; it now becomes the full domain of any person who wishes to copy your originality. A good majority of people who see a painting, design, photograph, etc. will not take the time to research its original ownership, or see how long along this work was published. This is where you as the artist should be concerned, and unfortunately the Legislation of the Orphan Act of 2008, does not protect you as an individual. You can and should do your part to protect yourself and your fellow artists by following a few of the suggestions by the:
So far over 31, 000 letters have gone out from our Orphan Works advocacy site. You will find answers to a few of the main questions asked:
1. Q: What can we do next?
Write the House Judiciary Committee. We’ve set up a special alert to contact members of this important committee. Go to our Take Action/Alert site: http://capwiz.com/illustratorspartnership/home. Look for the sample letter labeled “Contact House Judiciary Committee NOW” and send it.
If your Representative is not a member of the House Judiciary Committee, this will send him a message asking him to contact his colleagues of that Committee on your behalf, urging them to oppose the bill.
2. Ask for support from family and friends who support your creative work to also go to the site. They can follow the instruction to easily send a message of opposition to this reckless bill. Look for the sample letter labeled “For Supporters of Visual Artists - Wrong to Weaken Copyright Law” and send it.
3. Spread the word to the public: Photosharing on Web will now be at risk: Please alert your friends who post photos to the web their personal property will be at risk. Look for the sample letter labeled “For the Image-Making Public - Protect Personal Property”and send it.
We all need to start somewhere and these suggestions are a start to block this Legislation from becoming a Bill. We need to start now to protect ourselves and our work. If we don’t act now, what can we look forward to tomorrow.
By Guest Writer Pamela Baker of http://magdalenejewelspjk.blogspot.com/
Here are the past articles published here on this issue;
A final Thought from Sara...
For a brief what is 'Orphan Works', check out wikipedia's easy to understand explanation at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orphan_works. They have added a paragraph about the recent bill revisions...
The full text of the Senate version of the 2008 Orphan Works bill (S.2913) is now available and Senator
Patrick Leahy's introduction of the bill has been posted on his website.
Section 3 introduces the idea of a Database of Pictorial, Graphic, and
Sculptural Works and states: "The Copyright Office must create and undertake a
certification process for the establishment of electronic databases of visual
works. Certain requirements for any such registry are prescribed. The Copyright
Office will post a list of all certified registries on the Internet."
I have to say the copyright laws as I understand them in the UK, do already suggest that every design and it's colourway, theme and 'make' variations are copyrighted if you require full protection... Whereas the copyright of an idea always leaves a grey area when it comes to contesting a design's origin, sometimes leading to long and costly court cases (which is an implausible worry for most businesses). So the idea of a copyright register is not necessarily a bad idea... It does however cause problems for the small business or home crafter, who may not have the money to complete registration for every single item they lovingly produce (especially OOAK work - one of a kind).
The problem of copyright infringement is not a new one, although the concept of 'Orphaned Works' has huge ramifications for today's on-line world where technology is fast outstripping laws and safe practises in terms of speed and development. From a fashion design perspective (which is my background), you can already see on the high street alone that 'copying' is rife, even in a looser sense of the term. Therefore as artists are we not prone to 'borrowed' ideas already, as much as it hurts our pride and indeed our businesses?
I do feel the most important thing we can do as on-line sellers of arts and crafts (as well as opposing, or seeking more preferable amendments to such bills/laws as 'Orphan Works), is to start adding copyright 'watermarks' to our product/artwork images (completed or otherwise) before we post them to forums, social networks and shopping sites. That way it is clear where the design came from and the year it was created. Should you then wish to follow through on any unlawful copyright infringement, you the 'originator' will at least have some power to authenticate your claim. At the moment I see far too many photos of works that are unmarked by the artists... these could all easily be 'borrowed' for someone else's gain. Remember even if the text accompanying the photo in question contains details of the author/origin of the work. The photo itself can be downloaded separately from any blog, social network, forum, search engine and some websites... in these cases if a photo is unmarked it could easily be reused in another way without any credit to it's origin, becoming an 'Orphan Work'.
To me the key here is primarily in the education of artsits and crafters who live an on-line existence, to protect themselves and their work first and fore mostly... Copyright infringement does exist and will always exist, regardless of bills/laws. Do not give those who will, an open invitation to your hard work and lively hood!