Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Orphan Works: Not Dead Till It's Dead


Wired Magazine has posted an article:
"Orphan Works' Copyright Law Dies Quiet Death

Well, we can hope.

But we're dealing with a.) a fluid situation in Washington; and b.) special interests determined to pass this bill. So our assessment: It's not dead till it's dead.

According to our DC sources, the most efficient way for Congress to pass this bill now would be for the House to scrap their own version and adopt the Senate's. There are procedural ways they can do this. Some say they will; some say they won't. It's enough to know they can.

There are special interest groups promoting the House bill now: big stock houses, for example, like Getty and Corbis, and groups working with them. They want an infringer-friendly "dark archive," a privately-owned "entity" sanctioned by the Copyright Office where infringers would file a notice of intent to infringe a work.

Since artists would not have access to this dark archive, the "sanctioned entity" would be of no use to us until our work has been infringed and we've filed a case in federal court. And then it would mostly serve the interests of infringers - letting them prove in court they had done the minimal necessary paperwork before they infringed.

The important thing to remember about the House bill is that there is no protection for artists in it. It would simply give more middlemen a chance to profit from this gutting of copyright law.

We know it's hard to ask Congress to focus on copyright law with a financial crisis looming. But we didn't pick this fight and it's our rights at stake if we don't. There is no national emergency for orphan works that requires Congress to pass this bill - which was drafted in secret - in the dark of night.

Please contact your House Representative today. Tell them not to pass the House bill. Tell them not to adopt the Senate's.

- Brad Holland and Cynthia Turner, for the Board of the Illustrators' Partnership

Over 75 organizations oppose this bill, representing over half a million creators. Illustrators, photographers, fine artists, songwriters, musicians, and countless licensing firms all believe this bill will harm their small businesses.

EMAIL CONGRESS: Send email now
2 minutes is all it takes to tell the U.S. Congress to uphold copyright protection for the world's artists.

CALL CONGRESS: 1-800-828-0498.
Tell the U.S. Capitol Switchboard Operator "I would like to leave a message for Congressperson __________ that I oppose the Orphan Works Act." The switchboard operator will patch you through to the lawmaker's office and often take a message which also gets passed on to the lawmaker. Once you're put through, tell your Representative the message again.


Please fax these 4 U.S. State Agencies and appeal to your home representatives for intervention.

For more news and information: Illustrators' Partnership Orphan Works Blog
To be added to their mailing list, email

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Orphan Works: The Bill's Not Law Till it's Law

Yesterday, nearly 5,000 copyright holders wrote Congress. They urged their representatives not to let the House pass the Orphan Works Act (H.R. 5889). They urged them not to scrap the House bill and adopt the Senate's. So far they haven't.

That makes nearly 8,000 of us who've written Congress since last Friday. We thank all of you who've written. Keep writing. Tell others to write. The bill's not law till it's law.

Tell the House Judiciary Committee not to adopt the Senate version.

We've supplied a special letter for this purpose:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

ACT NOW! Senate Orphan Works Bill passed; House expected to follow.

Yesterday, the visual arts community was buzzing with news that the Senate was "hot lining" the Orphan Works Bill (S2913) for a vote that afternoon, and that the House was expected to follow suit. Artists trade associations, including SAA, hurried to urge our members to call or email their Senators and Representatives right away and we have no doubt that the response from artists was once again strong, even late on a Friday afternoon.

We've now learned that the Senate bill was passed.
It is troubling indeed that this legislation was pushed through in this manner, the last day of the Congressional term, and a time when the Congress is embroiled in responding to an economic crisis. As our colleagues at the Advertising Photographers of America (APA) have declared, in their email alert posted at Friday midnite: "Passing controversial legislation by this process, i.e. under the radar, is deeply troubling to say the least and every Senator needs to be held accountable."

We now need to turn our attention to the House.
We need to stop the House Judiciary Committee from folding their own bill (HR5889) and moving to adopt the Senate version.


The CapWiz site is set up to make this a very quick and easy process.
A letter is prepared, and all you need to do is enter your contact information.

70 organizations have united in opposing this bill in its current form. Illustrators, photographers, fine artists, songwriters, musicians, and countless licensing firms all believe this bill will harm their small businesses. With thanks to the Illustrators Partnership, the Capwiz site is open to professional creators and any member of the image-making public.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Small Business Administration (SBA) Roundtable on Orphan Works, August 8, 2008

Reposting this announcement of an Orphan Works Roundtable
and Webcast conducted by the Small Business Administration (SBA):

How Will the Orphan Works Bill Economically Impact Small Entities?

August 8, 2008, 10 a.m.—12noon
Salmagundi Club, 47 Fifth Avenue (between 11th & 12th Streets), New York City
Free Admission

Please attend this important industry event. Let government officials hear directly from those of us who will be harmed if this bill passes.

Until now, the Orphan Works bill has been driven by anti-copyright forces and special interest groups. This will be our first opportunity to be heard in a government sponsored forum devoted to the business interests of copyright holders.

The Roundtable will be chaired by Tom Sullivan, Director of the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA). It will give artists from the Northeast the chance to explain the impact of Orphan Works legislation on our careers and the art we create.

* Will the cost of compliance create an unreasonable burden on artists, writers and musicians?
* Will the failure to register work lead to the loss of copyrights?
* Why should artists be forced to supply their business data to commercial databases?
* Will the bill create a new business model favoring large corporations at the expense of individual artists?
* Will this change the nature of competition for all of us?

Eighteen distinguished panelists from the creative community will represent the copyright interests of illustrators, photographers, fine artists, art licensors, writers, musicians, and the collateral businesses that serve and are dependent on creators.

Learn more at

The event will be webcast.

PLEASE RSVP to and include the names of those attending.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Leading Photo Groups Urge Congress to Amend Orphan Works Bills

July 16, 2008. A growing chorus of concern, even outrage, about the current Orphan Works legislation demonstrates the importance of this issue for most photographers and other visual artists.

Meantime, representatives from organizations that include the largest share of U.S. advertising, editorial and stock photographers have been meeting with members of Congress and key staff. Their discussions have focused on seeking solutions for the problems of unidentified creative works and missing creators, while preserving constitutional protections for intellectual property.

The Advertising Photographers of America (APA), the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), the Stock Artists Alliance (SAA) and Editorial Photographers (EP) have all stated they cannot support the Orphan Works bills in their current form. Together, these groups represent more professional media photographers than other U.S. organizations.

In recent months, representatives from APA and NPPA have met with members of Congress and legislative staff to express their concerns regarding Orphan Works bills S2913 and HR5889. The photographers' representatives offered potential solutions for limiting the legislation to works that are truly "orphaned," for non-commercial use by the cultural heritage sector - particularly non-profit libraries, museums and archives.

The associations stressed the legislation must not violate international trade agreements or cause harm to existing commercial markets. Also, a well-crafted bill can and should maintain the rights of working artists as they exist under current copyright law.

International photographer groups have also expressed their opposition to the orphan works legislation in its current form. Among those groups are the UK's Association of Photographers (AOP), FreeLens, Union des Photographes Créateurs (UPC), and the Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communications (CAPIC).

Very vocal in their opposition are groups collectively representing more than a quarter-million visual artists and other creators, including leading associations in North America and Europe. More than 60 groups have endorsed an online resource, created by the Illustrators’ Partnership, that facilitates sending opposition messages to Congress. These groups comprise a broad community of creators, including illustrators, fine artists, graphic artists, digital artists, cartoonists and musicians. To date, more than 100,000 artists have used this resource to contact their senators, representatives and Judiciary Committee members.

This coalition of artists groups agrees Orphan Works legislation must be narrowly crafted to serve the needs of the cultural heritage users for whom it was originally conceived - giving them access to truly orphaned works - while protecting the copyrights and livelihoods of artists.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lawrence Lessig Calls Orphan Works Unfair and Unwise

"CONGRESS is considering a major reform of copyright law intended to solve the problem of “orphan works” — those works whose owner cannot be found. This “reform” would be an amazingly onerous and inefficient change, which would unfairly and unnecessarily burden copyright holders with little return to the public."

Readers may be surprised that this was written by Lawrence Lessig, in an Op-Ed article which appeared today in the New York Times. Lessig, the Stanford law professor who's well known as one of the founders of the "creative commons" movement, strongly opposes the proposed legislation as "unfair and unwise."

Other comments from Lessig:

"...precisely what must be done by either the infringer or the copyright owner seeking to avoid infringement is not specified upfront. The bill instead would have us rely on a class of copyright experts who would advise or be employed by libraries. These experts would encourage copyright infringement by assuring that the costs of infringement are not too great."

"The bill makes no distinction between old and new works, or between foreign and domestic works. All work, whether old or new, whether created in America or Ukraine, is governed by the same slippery standard."

"In a digital age, knowing the law should be simple and cheap. Congress should be pushing for rules that encourage clarity, not more work for copyright experts."

Read the full article at:

Canadian Artists Group Opposes Orphan Works, Citing Worldwide Impact

CAPIC, The Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communications, has just announced its opposition to the proposed 2008 Orphan Works legislation. Their position highlights the impact of this legislation on all creators, worldwide.

In a letter sent to the association's members, CAPIC Copyright Chair Andre Cornellier states "Even if this Bill becomes a law in the United-States it will have a very big impact on creators around the world, on creators like you and me. This Bill, when passed into law, will not make any difference between the works created by an American citizen and the works created by anyone else in the world. The implication is that EVERY work from everyone in the world would have to be registered in the USA."

CAPIC also contends, "This proposed law violates the international Berne Treaty and the TRIP negotiations (Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property TRIPs UNESCO.) It may be susceptible to an international lawsuit under international treaties.

Read the letter here.