I'm actually almost afraid to post any more artwork online...and that includes launching my new website and portfolio after reading various articles and discussions about this bill that may soon be law here in the United States.
What is it? It's called the Orphan Works bill.
I initially found out about this new legislation that is going before Congress over on CGTalk, in this thread here. After doing some research of my own, I was concerned enough that I posted the same information over on ConceptArt as well, in order to, hopefully, get some of the professional artists on that board to post their comments and discuss how they thought it might affect our work practices.
Didn't get all of the discussion that I'd hoped for, but on April 10, Mark Simon posted an article called, "Mind Your Business: You Will Lose All The Rights to Your Own Art" on AWN (Animation World Network) about the Orphan Law legislation that I thought was an excellent simplification of some of the issues and certainly made it rather clear how this could affect anyone that was posting any images on the internet, not just the creatives who develop art and earn a living from it.
Here are some of my favorite points:
1. "...If the Orphan Works legislation passes, you and I and all creatives will lose virtually all the rights to not only our future work but to everything we've created over the past 34 years, unless we register it with the new, untested and privately run (by the friends and cronies of the U.S. government) registries. Even then, there is no guarantee that someone wishing to steal your personal creations won't successfully call your work an orphan work, and then legally use it for free."
2. "...However, an Orphan Works bill is also in the works in Europe. I was speaking recently with Roger Dean, the famed artist of the Yes album covers, and he is greatly concerned with what will happen if Orphan Works bills become law. "This will devastate the livelihood of artists, photographers and designers in a number of ways," Dean says. "That at the behest of a few hugely rich corporations who got rich by selling art that they played no part in the making of, the U.S. and U.K. governments are changing the copyright laws to protect the infringer instead of the creator. This is unjust, culturally destructive and commercial lunacy. This will not just hurt millions of artists around the world..."
3. "...Photos on the internet could be orphaned. With tens of millions of photos shared online with services like Flickr, Shutterfly and Snapfish, there is a huge opportunity for unauthorized use of your photos... legally. You could see photos you take of your family and kids, or of a family vacation, used in a magazine or newspaper without your permission or payment to you. You would have to pay to register your photos, all of them, in every new registry in order to protect them. Say the average person takes 300 photos per year (I take a lot more than that). If a registry only charges $5 per image, that is a whopping $1,500 to protect your photos that are protected automatically under the current laws. If there are three registries, protecting your images could cost an amazing $4,500. Not to mention the time it would take to register every photo you take. Plus, you will also have to place your copyright sign on every photo.
That's not including all your art, sketches, paintings, 3D models, animations, etc. Do you really have all that extra time and money? Plus, even if you do register, the people stealing your work can still claim it was orphaned and, unless you fight them, they win. Even if you win, you may not make back your legal fees.
It gets even better. Anyone can submit images, including your images. They would then be excused from any liability for infringement (also known as THEFT) unless the legitimate rights owner (you) responds within a certain period of time to grant or deny permission to use your work...."
4. There are many, many other problems with the Orphan Works legislation. As a creator, YOU MUST understand what is going on. For additional information on Orphan Works developments, go to the IPA Orphan Works Resource Page for Artists.
This is not something that is going to go away easily. We need to be vocal NOW!
This legislation has been beaten or delayed for the past two years and they will keep trying until it passes. This is no time to be quiet and see what happens. What will happen depends on you. Send e-mails and call your congressmen. Ownership of your own creations depends on it.
Roger Dean sums this up well. "Where are the colleges and universities in all this? Has the whole world gone to sleep?"
Edit (some additional links with info):
1. From ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers)
2. Creative Commons Sued for Deception
3. OrphanWorks blog
4. Bill Could Worsen Problem of Orphan Works
5. March 13, 2008 Judiciary Hearing: "Hearing on Promoting the Use of Orphan Works: Balancing the Interests of Copyright Owners and Users" (video)
6. PDF of outline for above hearing