Monday, March 9, 2009

Pending Copyright Legislation

Being an artist myself, I'm keenly aware of how much work all artists invest in their art and I adamantly believe no one has any right to use an artwork for any unauthorized purpose.

On April 24, 2008 legislation was introduced in both the U. S. Senate and House of Representatives, S. 2913 and H.R. 5889, respectively, the "Orphan Works Act of 2008" aka, the "Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act."

I'm no expert on the subject, but my feeling about it is this:

According to current copyright law, any work of visual art is protected by copyright by virtue of its very creation:

Chapter 3, ss 302
Copyright in a work created on or after January 1, 1978, subsists from its creation and . . . endures for a term consisting of the life of the author and 70 years after the author's death.

Despite this seemingly "automatic" protection, artists would be wise to register their works with the Copyright Office to afford themselves the maximum protection and compensation under the law. Unregistered works are still protected, but compensatory damage awards will be greatly reduced, or more likely not awarded at all.

Supposedly this new law would, according to Register of Copyrights, Marybeth Peters, "allow good-faith users of copyrighted content to move forward in cases where they wish to license a use but cannot locate the copyright owner after a diligent search."

The premise of the legislation may be well-intended, but as the language exists, it seems to me, the burden falls squarely - and unfairly - upon the artist. There are far too many ways for infringement abuse to occur. What is to prevent someone from swiping an image of yours from your (or any) web site, or worse directly from your work itself without your knowledge. Just because an artist is unaware of an infringement doesn't give anyone license to steal a work.

The Senate Bill was passed by unanimous consent last fall. It was then sent to the House which failed to act upon it in the last Congress. Nevertheless, you can be sure it will be resurrected in the new Congress of 2009.

Please take the time to visit the links below to read about it and form your own opinion. After that, I implore you to contact your Representatives and let them know what you think about it.

Library of Congress H.R. 5889 - Exclusively devoted to this issue, the site is owned, written and maintained by attorney Joe Keeley, who has been involved in orphan works legislation since 2005. He was lead staffer on the orphan works issue responsible for drafting the language and arranging the hearings. This is a very informative site which offers no opinion, pro or con.

Americans for the Arts --
-- Update on 2008 Orphan Works legislation
-- ASMP FAQs about orphan works legislation

While you're thinking about copyrights, it would be a good idea to visit the U. S. Copyright Office web site and bring yourself up to date regarding copyright registration and protection. Lots of useful info there. For instance, did you know you can receive a discount for registering your work on line?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this information about Orphan Works Bill.
I appreciate your comment!

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