Under current copyright law, in effect for the last 30 years, yourvisual art is copy protected whether or not it is registered or carries the copyright symbol.
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to introducethe Orphan Works Act of 2008. If you care about protecting your work,you're against it. It will have the effect of wiping out any copyrighton visual art now in existence, throwing your work into the public domain. If you wish to protect your work (each and every separate piece)you will have to digitize it and register it with private sector registries as yet uncreated, for a fee as yet unestablished. I sayregistries because this bill places no limit on how many separateregistries there could be.
It gets worse. Anyone can submit images, including your images. Theywould then be excused from any liability for infringement (also known asTHEFT) unless the legitimate rights owner (you) responds within acertain period of time to grant or deny permission to use your work.
That means you will also have to look through every image in everyregistry all the time to make sure someone is not stealing andregistering your art. You could actually end up illegally using your ownartwork or photo if someone else registers it.
Please read more in this excerpt from illustratorspartnership.org [link]> ; Iknow it's long, but it's worth reading. Also, note that while their site is geared to illustrators, everything they say applies as well to photographers, musicians, filmakers, painters, writers, etc:
Since the last bill died in committee in 2006, the advocates of this legislation have promoted the creation of private commercial registries.
On January 29, 2007, a lead attorney for the Copyright Office warned usthat under their plan any work not registered with a private sector registry would be a potential orphan from the moment it was created.
This means you would not only have to register your published work, but also:
Every sketch or note on every page of every sketchbook;
Every sketch you send to every client;
Every photograph you take anywhere, anytime, including family photos,
home videos, etc.;
Every letter, email, etc., professional, personal or private.
This Would End Passive Copyright Protection: Under existing law thetotal creative output of any "creator" receives passive copyrightprotection from the moment you create it. This covers everything fromthe published work of professional artists to the unpublished diaries, letters and family photos of the average citizen.
But under the Orphan Works proposal, none of this material would be covered unless the creator took active steps to register and maintain coverage with a commercial registry. Failure to do so would "signal" to infringers that you have no interest in protecting the work.
The Registration Paradox:
By conceding that their proposals would make potential orphans of any unregistered works, the Copyright Office proposals would lead to a registration paradox: In order to "protect" work from exposure to infringement, creators would have to expose it on a publicly searchable registry. This would:
Expose creative work to plagiarists and derivative abusers;
Expose trade secrets and unused sketches to competitors;
Expose unpublished and private correspondence to the public on the Orwellian premise that you must expose it to "protect" it.
Yet registries will not be able to monitor infringements nor enforce copyright compliance. Even after you've shelled out "protection money" to a commercial registry to register hundreds of thousands of works, you still won't be protected. A registry would do nothing more than give you
a piece of paper. You would still have to monitor infringements - which can occur anytime anywhere in the world; then embark on an uncertain quest to find the infringer, file a case in Federal court, then prove that the infringer has removed your name or other identifying information from your work. Meanwhile all the infringer will have to do is say there was no such information on the work when he found it and assert an orphan works defense.
Coerced registration violates the spirit and letter of international copyright law and copyright-related treaties. And because this bill would effectively eliminate the passive copyright protection afforded personal correspondence, family photos, etc. it would tear one more slender thread of privacy protection from the fabric of fundamental rights we currently take for granted.
We urge Congress to carefully reconsider the unintended consequences of this radical copyright proposal.
Brad Holland and Cynthia Turner, for the Board of the Illustrators' Partnership
So, what to do about this? More from the Illustrators Parnership website:
March 19, 2008
We expect a bill to be released after the Easter recess. Sources say it will be introduced in the House and Senate simultaneously, and fast-tracked for a vote in the House by mid-May. Advocates hope for swift passage before the summer recess.
The decision to introduce such a radical bill so late in the session is ominous. Because of fall elections, this will be a short Congressional year. Any bill not passed by the end of Congress will have to re-introduced in the next Congress. That means the bill's sponsors must know they have their ducks lined up.
So, I urge everyone to:
GET ON ORPHAN WORKS E-MAIL LIST
To be notified of the latest information on the Orphan Works bill and when to contact your legislators, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to the Orphan Works list. You can also visit the IPA Orphan Works Resource Page for Artists for more information, because I didn't even detail all the disgusting facets of this shocking legislation: (illustratorpartnership.org)
Both House and Senate versions of the Orphan Works Act of 2008 can be downloaded from the IPA homepage: : (illustratorpartnership.org) [link]
And... please act!
The fastest, easiest thing is to sign a petition here: (gopeptition.com) [link].
Go to (usa.gov) [link] to quickly find the phone number, address and e-mail of every U.S. senator, U.S. representative,
and state legislator. In the meantime, please feel free to forward this to all the artists you know.
PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION!! [link]