Artists Alert: From Our Friends at the Illustrators Partnership The Return of Orphan Works End Run
For more than a year Congress has been holding hearings for the drafting of a brand new US Copyright Act. At its heart is the return of Orphan Works.
Twice, Orphan Works Acts have failed to pass Congress because of strong opposition from visual artists, spearheaded by the Illustrators Partnership.
Because of this, the Copyright Office has now issued a special call for letters regarding the role of visual art in the coming legislation.
Therefore we’re asking all artists concerned with retaining the rights to their work to join us in writing.
Here are the Basic Facts
“The Next Great Copyright Act” would replace all existing copyright law.
It would void our Constitutional right to the exclusive control of our work.
It would “privilege” the public’s right to use our work.
It would “pressure” you to register your work with commercial registries.
It would “orphan” unregistered work.
It would make orphaned work available for commercial infringement by “good faith” infringers.
It would allow others to alter your work and copyright these “derivative works” in their own names.
It would affect all visual art: drawings, paintings, sketches, photos, etc.; past, present and future; published and unpublished; domestic and foreign.
The demand for copyright “reform” has come from large Internet firms and the legal scholars allied with them. Their business models involve supplying the public with access to other people’s copyrighted work. Their problem has been how to do this legally and without paying artists.The “reforms” they’ve proposed would allow them to stock their databases with our pictures. This would happen either by forcing us to hand over our images to them as registered works, or by harvesting unregistered works as orphans and copyrighting them in their own names as “derivative works.”The Copyright Office acknowledges that this will cause special problems for visual artists but concludes that we should still be subject to orphan works law.
The “Next Great Copyright Act” would go further than previous Orphan Works Acts. The proposals under consideration include:
1.) The Mass Digitization of our intellectual property by corporate interests.
2.) Extended Collective Licensing, a form of socialized licensing that would replace voluntary business agreements between artists and their clients.
3.) A Copyright Small Claims Court to handle the flood of lawsuits expected to result from orphan works infringements.
Because this is a complicated issue, we’ll follow up next week with some expanded thoughts of our own.
– Brad Holland and Cynthia Turner
for the Board of the Illustrators Partnership
The Illustrators Partnership has filed multiple papers with the
Copyright Office regarding this issue.
You can download them from the Copyright Office website:
January 17, 2012
Initial Comments, February 3, 2013
Reply Comments, March 6, 2013
Additional Comments, May 21, 2014