Orphan works legislation update

We’ve read all the e-mail forwards, WetCanvas threads and blog posts, and The Artist’s Magazine editors know there’s a lot of buzz about the orphan works legislation recently reintroduced in the House and the Senate. The point of the copyright reform is to free up works whose authors cannot be located so the works can be used by the public without penalty. Artists worry that this would affect them negatively.

After consulting with a few lawyers, I can say that many of the incendiary blog posts and scaremongering e-mail forwards include inaccuracies and generalizations—not to mention the fact that the bills are likely to change a few times over before they become law, if they become law at all.

Don’t assume I’m an orphan works apologist—there are legitimate concerns. (Just read the New York Times‘ thoughtful opinion article on the subject.) But when getting information from the internet, you’ve got to be aware of who it’s coming from, and a lot of the e-mail forwards about orphan works have dubious origins.

The Artist’s Magazine is working with one of our law experts on an article about how these bills would change copyright law and affect artists. We’re going to post it to our website to disseminate the information as quickly as possible, and we’ll update the blog to let you know when it’s up.

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4 thoughts on “Orphan works legislation update

  1. Mission Possible

    I don’t understand why so many art organizations are fighting against the Orphan Works bill when they are too cowardly to speak out against people who are already violating the copyright of other artists as Shepard Fairey has done. He is a prime example of the type of artist we should be going against instead of supporting. Put up or shut up. Look up what he did with the art of Rene Mederos. Or are you afraid of making the Obama crowd angry? You can’t have both worlds you know! We can’t stand for some rights some of the time. We must stand against ANYONE who steps on a fellow artists rights. The fact that he is so popular shows just how much the public cares for our rights!

  2. Ken Dubrowski

    I think that it would be helpful if Artist’s Magazine and it’s legal experts make full use of the Illustrator’s Partnership of Americas full resource page on this issue. You may find that while some people may misunderstand some points most of the industry has come together to oppose the problems with this bill.

    The problem is getting in front of people to be heard.

    These articles clearly outline the problems with the bill and ask artists to take action. If there is not a louder and more direct opposition the bill which is being fast tracked will have little changes made to it.

    I would hope the Artist’s Magazine would help promote informative and educated information to the industry.


    Thanks Ken Dubrowski

    Some Backers of the Controversial Orphan Works Bill Say They’re Launching a Campaign to “Rescue Orphan Works”

    by The Board of the Illustrators’ Partnership

    May 12, 2008

    Some backers of the controversial Orphan Works bill say they’re launching a campaign to “Rescue Orphan Works.”

    From whom?

    We’re not the ones interested in infringing other people’s copyrights.
    We’re only interested in protecting our own.
    If the “Rescue Orphan Works” folks really want to use only true orphaned work, they’d join us in asking that this bill be drafted accordingly.

    From our written statement submitted to the Senate April 30, 2008 http://www.illustratorspartnership.org/ow_docs

    We believe the orphan works problem can be and should be solved with carefully crafted, specific limited exemptions.

    • An exemption could be tailored to solve family photo restoration and reproduction issues.

    • Usage for genealogy research is probably already covered by fair use, but could rate an exemption if deemed necessary.

    • Limited exemptions could be designed for documentary filmmakers.

    • Libraries and archives already have generous exemptions for their missions. However, if they believe they need expanded access to work whose authors are hard to find, we’d suggest that Congress adopt a variant of the Orphan Works clearance system in use in Canada.

    Canada has created a statutory licensing scheme that allows licenses for the use of published works to be issued by the Copyright Board of Canada on behalf of unlocatable copyright owners.

    The license is issued by the Canadian Copyright Board. Decisions are made on a case-by- case basis through application to the Board. If the Board is satisfied by the applicant’s efforts of e-mails, phone calls, written correspondence, approaches to copyright collectives, Internet searches, etc., then it may issue a non-exclusive license which is valid only in Canada, subject to any terms and conditions it sees fit. http://www.library.yale.edu/~llicense/ListArchives/0507/msg00096.html

    A system such as this would serve potential users of orphaned work by allowing them to clear rights in an orderly, verified way. Therefore we respectfully ask that the Senate conduct further hearings to resolve the specific problem of providing public access to true orphaned works. Our objections to S.2913 – which incorporates the proposals made by the Copyright Office – is that its effects cannot be limited to old or abandoned copyrights.

    There’s no need to “rescue orphan works” from artists.
    And you don’t save orphans by making new ones!

    Help solve the real orphan works problem: Don’t Let Congress Orphan Your Work

    2 minutes is all it takes to write Congress and protect your copyright: