Orphan Works Act update – please read!

I’ve been following the Orphan Works Act and it looks like it’s making good speed through the House.  Over a Cagle’s blog, he’s posted a stirring story from Michiko Stehrenberger, a cartoon illustrator and character designer who took on a big tobacco company who used her work illegally. Because of current copyright law, she had a fighting chance to win – and she did, but if the Orphan Woks Act were in effect her chances of getting compensated for her work would have been slim to jack squat.

Here’s a teaser.

Because existing copyright law permitted me the ability to be awarded full damages, injunctive relief and legal fees, I was able to persuade a lawyer and the necessary expert witnesses to take my case on a contingency basis. After four years of perseverance, this finally allowed me to bring the case before a judge and achieve a resolution.

Under the Orphan Works Act, however, the infringer could have asserted a “good faith” orphan works defense and said, in effect: “Go ahead and sue me!” In that event, I would have had to risk upfront out-of-pocket legal fees and court costs in the hopes of establishing the infringer’s bad faith. I would also have had to weigh that risk against the fear that a successful “good faith” defense (whether merited or not) by the infringer would have limited my award to a paltry usage fee ­ far from enough to cover the nearly $100,000 that the suit would eventually cost me. And I would also have to risk it while knowing that there would be NO LIMIT to the amount of money the infringer could then extract from me in a counterclaim.

Go read the whole thing and then go write your state representatives!