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Anderson draws attention to Orphan Works Act

Nick Anderson on Orphan Works Act
© Nick Anderson. Used by permission

Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle editorial cartoonist, has written a blog post on the personal impact of the Orphan Works Act on artists if it is passed.

And written from the artist’s perspective: “Why does this matter to me?

  • Creative control and ownership: No one can use or change my work without my permission.
  • Value: In the marketplace my ability to sell exclusive rights to a client triples the value of my work.

The Orphan Works Act would end that exclusive right because

  • It would let anyone who can’t find me (or who removes my name from my work and says he can’t) to infringe my work.
  • Since infringements can occur anytime, anywhere in the world,
  • My work could be stolen countless times, but I might never find out about it.
  • That means that under this bill, I would never again be able to assure a client that my work hasn’t been – or won’t be – infringed.
  • Therefore I would never again be able to guarantee a client an exclusive right to license any of my work.
  • This means my entire inventory – my life’s work – would be devalued by at least 2/3 its potential worth from the moment this bill takes effect.”

As AAEC President, he earlier joined the National Cartoonist Society in an open letter to congress warning that passage of this legislation would severely hurt artists.

Community Comments

#1 Mark Ashworth
May/15/2008
@ 12:46 am

The Panel & Pixel forums have been discussing this for a about a week, now. Some posters are for it, some against. No consensus has been reached, but based on what they are saying, it seems it may be a well-meant bill with poor design.

#2 Rich Diesslin
May/15/2008
@ 12:46 am

Here’s my reply from Sherrod Brown, Ohio congressman, when I send the suggested e-mail.

“Dear Mr. Diesslin:

Thank you for contacting me regarding legislation dealing with “orphan works” and changes to U.S. copyright law.

Orphan works describe copyrighted work, often photos, paintings, and songs, where it is more than likely impossible to contact or identify the original copyright holder. In such a case, these works are considered inaccessible and withheld from public view and circulation because of the risk of infringement liability that one could incur if the copyright owner reappears. Some have proposed legislation that would amend the Copyright Act, adding a provision that would limit liability for infringing use of an orphan work as long as the user can prove that a diligent search was made for the copyright owner.

The House of Representatives Subcommitee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property recently held a hearing to discuss orphan works legislation that would balance the interests of copyright holders and users. These bills, H.R.5889 and S.2913, have not yet been brought before Congress for consideration.

I appreciate you sharing your concerns over how this legislation could affect your work. Should this legislation come before the Senate for a vote, I will most certainly keep your views in mind. Thank you again for contacting me.

Sincerely,
Sherrod Brown”

So is he missing the point here?

#3 Mike Cope
May/15/2008
@ 5:01 am

Rich … Unfortunately, that’s a form letter which you received. Pardon my pun, but, nothing personal!

#4 Phil Wohlrab
May/15/2008
@ 5:57 am

I’ve signed petitions against it, assuming that it couldn’t be good. There is a youtube video that sounds convincing enough-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqBZd0cP5Yc

I have images on a second site that could easily be used that do not have my name or little C’s all over it. It’s not easily found on the internet, thank god. The way I understood it was that they’ll be searching for your registered copyright… not YOU. No copywrite, well too bad for you. That would mean you have to register everything, otherwise it’s considered orphaned.

#5 Rich Diesslin
May/15/2008
@ 11:17 am

Mike I’m aware it’s a form e-mail, but that’s what I sent too, so I guess that’s fair. Interestingly he may have had enough input to have a form letter ready. What I’m curious about is if he’s off target assuming it only applies to the orphans, but in fact probably makes copyrights generally less effective. Anybody know? The youtube video seems pretty good in suggesting that this is the case. Thanks for that reference.

Maybe a video is something our legislators can comprehend! ;)

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