A coworker sent news of this to me this morning and I was shocked. Apparently a bill is pending in Congress that would virtually strip all rights to creative works from artists, designers, musicians, you name it. The bill has been referred to as the ‘end of copyright’. Currently and since 1976, in order to be more compatible with international copyright laws, if you have created something you do not have to pay to protect it. It is automatically considered so. Under this new bill apparently, this would change, whereas if you wanted your work legally protected, you would have to pay to do so. If you could not pay or afford to pay, then your work would be up for grabs by (most likely) people with more money than you. Nothing you create would be protected and putting anything online would be placing your work directly in harms way. You would have to pay to own your own work or that work would be deemed an ‘orphan’ and available for use by anyone willing to pay the government the right to license. The scariest part is that this also encompasses anything you release online, which for many of us is our best work because we use the internet to promote ourselves to potential employers and contractors.

The legislation was introduced about 3 years ago and, rightly so, has been difficult to pass. The bill is being reviewed today and could pass very soon. My question is how do bills like this even get introduced into legislation when they fly in the face of working Americans? How broken is our system?

Here are several links where you can read more about this bill:
Senator Leahy’s full text release of the bill here
Wikipedia’s Orphan Works entry here
Advertising Photographers of America’s page fighting the bill here
General information about the bill and it’s repercussions here

Lastly and most importantly, you can take action here

written by Christopher | tags: , , ,

11 Responses to “The Orphan Works Bill”

  1. jamie Says:

    This makes me sick. Please, everyone TAKE ACTION. We are all so screwed if this goes through. Christopher, I hope you don’t mind I copied your post for my blog, and linked back to you, maybe I can help spread the word.

  2. Jordan Stark Says:

    As I read the bill on Senator Leahy’s website it doesn’t sound nearly as bad as this video claims it is. Every creative work is still protected as far as the bill states, and also entitled to compensation should the creator discover their work was commercially used…. just as before. I think people should read carefully before they cry that the sky is falling. If someone uses an “orphaned work” they must provide proof of a good faith search to identity the owner of the work or they’re liable to copyright violations. In addition, they’ll have to mark the work with another type of copyright symbol recognizing that it’s an “orphaned work.” The video and bill almost seem like different scenarios as far as I can tell. Cheers.

  3. Jordan Stark Says:

    Regardless, thanks for providing the information. Pleasure to visit.

  4. Jordan Stark Says:

    Just visited your work. Was fond of a lot of your authored messages and symbolism. The domestic dissidence was also appreciated. Best regards Christopher.

  5. Bob Guilbert Says:

    As Jordan points out it is not as bad as the video makes it but it does have some negative sides of it like: 1- the probability of having to register every piece of copyrightable material with a photograph of it so people can do their diligence search. 2- the probability of having to pay a fee to do so!!
    I personally don’t trust the patent office as it has awarded some pretty ridiculous patents…and we now are to personally to fund them?? No.

  6. Valorie Wilson Says:

    I want to respond to Jordan’s post. It is NOT the same as before (Every creative work is still protected as far as the bill states, and also entitled to compensation should the creator discover their work was commercially used…. just as before). Art that is not included in the ‘FOR PROFIT REGISTRIES” could potentially be ‘ORPHANED’. If you find your own artwork that is be used by an infringer, you would HAVE TO GO TO COURT to make the infringer PROVE that he had/hadn’t done the reasonable search. AT THE ARTIST’S EXPENSE – and all you can then recoup of your losses is THE ‘REASONABLE’ fee (determined by the court, not by you) if they did the search. You can only recoup the legal fees if they cannot prove they did a Reasonable Search, someting that you currently can do. Something that makes it worthwhile for an attorney to take a case on contingency – without it and only the ‘REASONABLE fee’ for compensation – no attorney will touch it and I have that assurance from an IP attorney.

    PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE publicly states that they don’t think that the infringer should pay anything and very limited amounts (they suggest $200.00) regardless of the end use/commercial or not.

    The really huge crux of this, is not that they bill seeks to ‘PRESERVE’ or allow use for the libraries…at least not in the larger picture. This is only about making money from searches, the sale of Orphans, and the registration of images. They are killing the goose that laid the golden eggs…many artist will be searching other means to support themselves if it becomes impossible to protect their artwork from theft and the small artists will be the most likely target of infringers.

    Do an internet search for GOOGLE,YAHOO, PICSCOUT + orphan works bill. How did they wind up giving testimony?
    Microsoft (who was courting Yahoo) – who incidently owns Flikr.com (image selling sites)-
    and they (microsoft) are already working with Pic Scout (who was mentioned to me by my reps aide yesterday as a potential ‘REGISTRY OWNER’)
    (http://www.cgi-java.com/article.cfm/id/256275) MICROSOFT hired Jule Sigall who was the man that wrote the ORPHAN WORKS REPORT while he worked for the COPYRIGHT OFFICE.
    (http://research.yale.edu/isp/a2k/wiki/index.php?title=Jule_Sigall&printable=yes (Tech Law Journal’s owner Mr.Carney wrote, “The primary author of the report, Jule Sigall, subsequently went to work for Microsoft. See, story titled “Jule Sigall Joins Microsoft” in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,510, December 27, 2006.”)

    the reason everyone is fighting over the images are the millions/billions in ad sales resulting from the online searches…Google is the current leader and is now courting Yahoo themselves. Besides the millions or billions of dollars that would be generated from the ad sales, these giants will also make additional money off registration and searches as well. “Companies that create no content of their own, and make money solely on the backs of other people’s content, are raking in billions through advertising revenue and IPOs. Google takes the position that everything may be freely copied unless the copyright owner notifies Google and tells it to stop. ” That sounds familar….http://news.softpedia.com/news/Microsoft-Attacks-Google-For-Copyright-Infringement-48665.shtml & (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24543408/page/3/ )

    Google is hooked up with Getty (images sales again) and AOL (Shawn Bentley went from the US gov. to work for time warner – owner of AOL – as VP of IP and Global Public Policy after he worked in the senate and “helped write are among the most important laws in the intellectual property world: the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act; the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the American Inventors Protection Act, the Patent Fee Integrity and Innovation Protection Act, the Anti-Counterfeiting Consumer Protection Act, and the Trademark Dilution Act, just to name a few.” http://thebloodofpatriots.com/rag/?p=25

    Then there’s apple fixing to jump into the mix?(http://www.siliconvalleywatcher.com/mt/archives/2008/04/is_apple_about.php)

    Also, any artist that uploads any amount of art onto free sites better be taking a really good look at their policies and finding out what they are up to. Artwanted’s policies already state your art goes right onto Google and WITHOUT CREDITS/COPYRIGHT INFO.




    This bill will put many small artists out of business – we fight infringement daily NOW with the current laws. Removal of the penalties currently in place will open all artists up to constant infringement. Who has the time to spend hunting for infringed work on a constant basis? Oh, but don’t worry, because now, for a fee there are IMAGE SEARCHING sites springing up offering to let you find infringed copies/potential orphans – for a fee.

  7. Wallace Says:

    You might want to check this out. Brian Sherwin from the Myartspace Blog interviewed Alex Curtis from Public Knowledge about the Orphan Works bill. If you read it closely you will see that Alex contradicts himself several times.


  8. Span Says:

    Do you think Obama supports the Orphan Works bill? I just read an article about Obama and Shepard Fairey that hinted at that. Put the link in the website space if you want to take a look.

  9. Vw Says:

    Just take a look at Obama’s list of contributors on opensecrets – no doubt that with Lessig on his team and Microsoft and Google BOTH campaign contributors that without a doubt Obama is pro the Orphan works bills.

    They are trying to sneak it thru congress right now – for anyone that is interested in protecting their copyrights, they need to be calling – For news and information:
    > Illustrators’ Partnership Orphan Works Blog:
    > http://ipaorphanworks.blogspot.com/

  10. Brian Sherwin Says:

    Thanks for letting me know about this entry. I’m the Senior Editor for http://www.myartspace.com. I oppose the Orphan Works bill in its current form. The rights of artists must be defended. I invited Brad Holland to respond to an interview I had with Alex Curtis of Public Knowledge. Feel free to post excerpts if you wish. It is a very long post– but is worth the read.


    Warm regards,

    Brian Sherwin
    Senior Editor / Myartspace Blog

  11. Aceo Art Says:

    So much info in one post

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