Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Protect Your Rights - Write Your Congress Person!

There is a very disturbing piece of legislation before Congress right now regarding Orphaned Works. Orphaned works refer to ANY creative work, be it a drawing/painting/photograph/song etc. that is not officially copyrighted. As it stands right now, all of your own work is protected by copyright as soon as you make it, in this country and internationally as well. If you don't register your work and someone steals it, it might be more difficult for you to take action against them, but you still have the ability. This orphan works legislation proposes changing that, and in doing so robbing you, me, and countless others of our artistic & creative rights. The proposed bill would force artists to register EVERYTHING they create with private registry companies. That means every sketch, photo, song etc that you create will have to be registered or it will be considered an "Orphaned Work" and therefore be fair game for any person or company to profit from. Scarier still, if someone found one of your orphaned works, they could register it themselves, then later sue YOU for using YOUR OWN WORK!

Here is what will take place if this passes: Private registry companies (who knows how many) will begin popping up. In fact, a couple are already set up & ready to go if the bill becomes law. They have owners with names like Bill Gates. Now, however many private registry companies emerge is interesting, because artists will have to register with ALL of them - yes, ALL of them, in order to protect their work. If there were 10 registry companies & you registered your work with 9 of them, the 10th could call your work an orphan work, take it, and profit from it.... LEGALLY!!! As if that isn't bad enough, what about the price? Even if it cost just $5 per copyright, that would be $50 just to protect one photograph. At a conservative estimate, I publicly post a couple hundred photos a year, plus countless drawings & animations, do the math. The term "starving artist" is about to take on a whole new & entirely scary meaning. Basically no one but high end studios and well established professionals will be able to stay in business. People like myself who are aspiring freelance artists will have to aspire to new careers, this bill will crush us if it passes.

Oh and I almost forgot, all these new registry companies will be just that - NEW COMPANIES..... so what reassurance do we have that they will actually protect our work for a year? 10 years? 50? Will they still even exist? What track record of performance do they have to show that I can put my trust in as an artist?

If you don't think this applies to you, you are wrong. Even if you just email a few family photos here & there, there is nothing to say you won't see them in a magazine or advertisement - generating money that you will never see. The people that want this law to pass (big business, on-line art wholesalers etc) will claim that there is no interest in small time stuff like that - they will be lying. They don't want your photos etc. right now because they'd have to pay for them, but that won't be the case if they all become orphaned works. I can tell you right now if I owned a registry company I would most definitely have a department that did nothing but search for & claim orphaned works. The possibilities for using them are endless, compiling calendars, making advertisements, photos in books, logos, background music for films, commercials or anything else.... the list goes on, and I'm not even close to being a savvy business person.

The potential repercussions of this bill are terrible, which is why I'm asking for your support & your voice. Please contact your congress person & tell them why you think this will do more harm than good. It doesn't have to be a long letter or anything, but sincerity is a plus. Even if you truly don't think this applies to you but you give a damn about people like myself who would like to continue pursuing their creative aspirations - tell your congress person that. It will be a great help & you have my thanks.

Here is a link to a longer article on this topic from Animation World Magazine if you desire to read further on the subject.

Here is a link to the contact information of your congress person .

Thank you all for your time & your help. I wouldn't send this if it wasn't important to me & many others. If it is not too much trouble, please pass this info along with the links to anyone you can, the more the better. If the Orphaned Works bill becomes law, the internet at large will quickly become a MUCH less creative and interactive place.

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