Robert Genn calls it the Mickey Mouse Bill.
What is it? The Orphan Works Act of 2008.
"Congress is getting pushed by big companies to change the way the copyright laws currently work. If you have deep pockets, you'll weather the change... But if this law is passed, you will be forced to register (for a fee!) every single painting, photography, lithograph, sculpture, or pot that you make. The current copyright – you create it; therefore it's copyrighted – will no longer exist." (–Message posted on the illustration listserv.)
Remember how difficult stock art houses have made it for illustrators and photographers to earn a living? Here's another level of bureaucracy that would do the same by changing current U.S. copyright laws (art is automatically covered as soon as you create it) to force you to register every single piece of art in order for it to be protected.
Somebody who wanted to use your art would have to use due diligence to find you, and if they couldn't, well, your work would be considered "orphaned" and they could use it free of charge. Problem is, anybody could say they tried to find you, but who's to say how much effort they really used? We all know there's way too much theft going on already. This would add to the problem.
In addition, this bill would potentially open the door for companies to open private registry services "for your convenience" (yeah, right), once more making a buck off the artist. Not to mention the companies that could gather up all these "orphaned" works, register them in the company's name, and resell them.
I don't usually rant on my blog, but I'm really tired of moneymaking schemes that take advantage of people who do honest work.
The Illustrators Partnership of America has made it easy to send a letter to your representative in Congress. And here's how to do it for people outside the U.S. I hear they'll be voting on this within days, so time is of the essence.
Pass it along.