Monday, June 02, 2008
In April of 2008 a Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill known as the Orphan Works Act. Orphan Works are works whose rightful copyright owner cannot be identified. The Orphan Works Act of 2008 does the following:
1. It changes the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act, and makes it virtually impossible for artists to protect their work. It allows anyone to use a design without the copyright holder's permission.
2. It requires artists to attempt to protect their work by registering it with a digital database system (presumably for a fee, in addition to the copyright filing fee) when no such system currently exists.
3. It eliminates statutory damages wherever an infringer can successfully claim an Orphan Works defense, thus eliminating the only tool the law provides to prevent deliberate infringement.
4. It allows for an infringer to create and copyright a derivative work from the original design.
5. It leaves infringing works (and products incorporating them) subject to seizure in other countries.
Since the legislation was introduced the Craft & Hobby Association along with the Graphic Artists Guild and George Little Management, hired lobbyist Megan Gray to work on their behalf.
Ms. Gray has spent an inordinate amount of time writing to diverse industry associations in the plethora of visual art enterprises to alert them to the legislation and to invite them to help fund this expensive lobbying endeavor. She has also held in-person meetings with the Copyright Office multiple times, with Senate offices on the key Judiciary Committee, House of Representative offices on the key Judiciary Committee and with more than 10 additional Hill offices that will play important roles as the legislation moves through to enactment. In addition Ms. Gray has met with Senators, has scheduled meetings with Representatives, has met with stakeholders on all sides of this issue, compiled state-specific handouts on the importance of the visual arts industries, visited trade shows, published articles, given presentations and worked with bar associations to draft appropriate resolutions regarding "orphan works."
The Orphan Works Act will have a devastating effect on the craft and hobby industry especially artists, manufacturers and the entire art licensing community. This bill will nullify exclusive rights to artwork, which will be detrimental for everyone involved in creating art and manufacturing products featuring art. The bill does not even contain a "notice of use" provision, which means that copyright owners can do nothing to prevent their works from being commercially exploited as supposed "orphans".
The bill is now on its way to the Senate floor for a vote by the full Senate. We urge you to take action! Write to your senators, asking them to halt all progress on the bill until it is amended and ask them to vote against the bill if it is NOT amended to protect visual artists and to include, at a minimum, a publicly accessible "notice of use" filing.
Letters to senators should include in the first paragraph information regarding the writer (especially noting if he is a constituent), the name of the bill ("The Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008" S. 2913), and the writer's position, particularly as to the "notice of use" provision.
The link below can help you get started. Click on the link for a sample letter to use. You may also personalize your own letter. Just by taking a few minutes of your time, a letter will automatically be emailed to the US Senate. We recommend you also print out the letter and mail it.
Take action by clicking here
(Note: we just clicked on the link above -- it took less than 5 minutes. Do it now!)
In addition, as of mid-May 2008, the House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet has approved an "orphan works" bill that is an improvement over past bills and which contains a "notice of use" provision. However, this "notice of use" is not publicly accessible for review by copyright owners. Even in its hidden role, many stakeholders are fighting to strip this provision to the bill. The visual art groups are, of course, fighting to keep it in and to make it an open archive.
The next step in the process is unclear, as the bill's sponsors have indicated that they will be working to address a variety of provisions. At some future point, it is expected that the bill will be presented to the House Committee on the Judiciary for a vote, perhaps in amended form. Once it is more apparent what the Judiciary Committee will be presented with, the Craft & Hobby Association will alert its members and recommend action as may be appropriate. In the meantime, Megan Gray will continue her extensive efforts to influence the legislation.
Thank you for taking the time! Together we can make a difference.
List of Senators and District Office addresses:
Orphan Works Opposition Headquarters
Contact Keri Cunningham, CHA's Marketing Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 201-835-1229