Thursday, May 8, 2008

Art For Grabs

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.


Alicia Padrón said...

I read something about this in the SCBWI forum. This is not good.. Is the international letter for non-us citizens? Or just us citizens living outside the US? I read it but I'm not clear about that part. I will send those letters but want to make sure I'm entitled.

I will talk about this on my blog too. I'll link people to your post or maybe, if you don't mind, I'll copy parts of it and post it on mine, this way people see it immediately and don't get a bit lazy about going to another link. That happens sometimes.

Thanks for informing people about it. We really have to spread the word!

Jennifer Thermes said...

Hi Alicia-- Yes-- post, link, copy-- whatever it takes to get the word out. This is important!

I just looked at the site again, and I believe the international letter is for both-- citizens living outside the US and non-citizens, too (which seems like it would make sense, since a non-citizen's work could certainly be infringed upon inside the US.)

Thanks for your help! :-)

Alicia Padrón said...

Thanks Jennifer.

I already posted about it on my blog, and added a link to yours. I'll do the letters for sure.

Christine Mercer-Vernon said...

i am glad you posted this!! i am swamped and behind but i have been keeping up with some reading and thanks to your post i fired off a letter promptly and sent your post and links to all of my friends who are artists and graphic artists.

this is so disappointing.

Jennifer Thermes said...

Great, Christine. I'm so glad you're taking part.

Susan said...

I sent my letters to my vermont reps and forwarded it along to our friends. Thank you Jennifer.

Jennifer Thermes said...

Thanks, Sue! :-)