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Posted: May 19, 2008 8:20 am
many people here on this board are visual artists.

protect your copyright! oppose the orphan works bill, which is raising its ugly head again

this link will give you an illustrated (by me) explanation

this link will take you to a page that explains even more and further, directs you to automated templates so you can fill in the blanks and have a letter sent to your congress and senate people

if you think this is just me being political again, let me just say: my work was once infringed and the status quo vis a vis copyright protection, registration and defense ably covered me. i was able to prevail in an open and shut 6-figure (statutory) yielding compensation. had the orphan works bill been in place, i would have been not only shit out of luck in terms of the infringement - but the violater could have persisted in their lie (of not knowing how to get in touch w/ the photographer) and would not have owed me anything.

if it happened to me, it can happen to you.

know your rights and protect them!
Posted: May 19, 2008 9:14 am
wow, that is utter B.S..(the bill I mean)...thanks for the info.....
Posted: May 19, 2008 10:01 am | Edited by: Theresa K
i'd like to thank ken case for making me aware of the bill rearing its ugly head again
Posted: May 20, 2008 10:31 am
From the NY Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/20/opinion/20lessig.html?ex=1369022400& en=af6d685002b2942f&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

or for those who don't click:

Little Orphan Artworks

CONGRESS is considering a major reform of copyright law intended to solve the problem of “orphan works” " those works whose owner cannot be found. This “reform” would be an amazingly onerous and inefficient change, which would unfairly and unnecessarily burden copyright holders with little return to the public.

The problem of orphan works is real. It was caused by a fundamental shift in the architecture of copyright law. Before 1978, copyright was an opt-in system, granting protection only to those who registered and renewed their copyright, and only if they marked their creative work with the famous ©. But three decades ago, Congress created an opt-out system. Copyright protection is now automatic, and it extends for almost a century, whether the author wants or needs it or even knows that his work is regulated by federal law.

The old system filtered copyright protection to those works that needed it; the new system regulates indiscriminately. The Congressional Research Service has estimated that just 2 percent of copyrighted works that are 55 to 75 years old retain any commercial value. Yet the system maintains no registry of copyright owners nor of entities from which permission to use a copyrighted work can be sought. The consequence has been that an extraordinary chunk of culture gets mired in unnecessary copyright regulation.

The solution before Congress, however, is both unfair and unwise. The bill would excuse copyright infringers from significant damages if they can prove that they made a “diligent effort” to find the copyright owner. A “diligent effort” is defined as one that is “reasonable and appropriate,” as determined by a set of “best practices” maintained by the government.

But precisely what must be done by either the “infringer” or the copyright owner seeking to avoid infringement is not specified upfront. The bill instead would have us rely on a class of copyright experts who would advise or be employed by libraries. These experts would encourage copyright infringement by assuring that the costs of infringement are not too great. The bill makes no distinction between old and new works, or between foreign and domestic works. All work, whether old or new, whether created in America or Ukraine, is governed by the same slippery standard.

The proposed change is unfair because since 1978, the law has told creators that there was nothing they needed to do to protect their copyright. Many have relied on that promise. Likewise, the change is unfair to foreign copyright holders, who have little notice of arcane changes in Copyright Office procedures, and who will now find their copyrights vulnerable to willful infringement by Americans.

The change is also unwise, because for all this unfairness, it simply wouldn’t do much good. The uncertain standard of the bill doesn’t offer any efficient opportunity for libraries or archives to make older works available, because the cost of a “diligent effort” is not going to be cheap. The only beneficiaries would be the new class of “diligent effort” searchers who would be a drain on library budgets.

Congress could easily address the problem of orphan works in a manner that is efficient and not unfair to current or foreign copyright owners. Following the model of patent law, Congress should require a copyright owner to register a work after an initial and generous term of automatic and full protection.

For 14 years, a copyright owner would need to do nothing to receive the full protection of copyright law. But after 14 years, to receive full protection, the owner would have to take the minimal step of registering the work with an approved, privately managed and competitive registry, and of paying the copyright office $1.

This rule would not apply to foreign works, because it is unfair and illegal to burden foreign rights-holders with these formalities. It would not apply, immediately at least, to work created between 1978 and today. And it would apply to photographs or other difficult-to-register works only when the technology exists to develop reliable and simple registration databases that would make searching for the copyright owners of visual works an easy task.

A hired expert shouldn’t be required for an orchestra to know if it can perform a work composed during World War II or for a small museum to know whether it can put a photograph from the New Deal on its Web site. In a digital age, knowing the law should be simple and cheap. Congress should be pushing for rules that encourage clarity, not more work for copyright experts.

Lawrence Lessig is a law professor at Stanford.
Posted: May 20, 2008 10:45 am
i think copyright should only be for the life of the author and as long as they maintain current contact information.
Posted: May 20, 2008 11:51 am
If Lessig don't like it, I don't like it.
Posted: May 20, 2008 9:41 pm
hey andy - did i tell you back when we were hanging at louie fest that i used to work with marty garbus? dan ellsberg used to come visit him at the office n shit!
Posted: May 21, 2008 3:53 am
As a musician myself, I can sympathize. Hell, I don't want anybody using my shit without permission either. But orphan works are a real problem, esp. with recorded sound. There are millions of recordings out there in legal limbo that are impossible to find the rights for, and then they never get heard. Libraries and archives aren't even allowed to make back-up copies if the ones they have are deteriorating. The current system is fucked up. It's too bad this bill doesn't seem to address the problem correctly. Lessig's suggestion of a dollar renewal fee seems reasonable.

As an example of how wrong things are now, there is a great interview on NPR with the Robert Darden, who heads the Gospel Music Restoration Project at Baylor. At one point in the interview he discusses how hard it is to find the copyright holders for many of these 45's that he's trying to save. Record companies have changed hands numerous times, copyright holders dead and gone, impossible to find, etc. This is a non-profit project, just trying to archive this stuff for posterity, and the legal hurdles make it all but impossible.

Orphan works are a real problem, this act isn't just a land-grab by people trying to screw over artists. I know there are a lot of archivists and historians in favor of it. But it could be done better.
Posted: May 21, 2008 6:18 am
But it could be done better.

that's the whole point.

this orphan works thing hits very very close to home for me - if it existed, i would have been screwed -

i signed a non-disclosure agreement in the copyright infringement case i won against a platinum-selling artist who used my photo as their album cover and all advertising, etc. image so i can't get too specific or name names BUT basically - MY NAME WAS ON THE BACK OF THE PHOTO, and at the time they were doing the album, my name was on TV all day long as the exec producer on several VH1 shows- and other long-lost magazine editors managed to find me years later (this was in 1997 - search engines existed) to return photos (maybe even 4 editors after the one i submitted to and after i had made maybe 3 address changes myself)

the big problem in the beginning with the copyright infringer was that they claimed " we didn't know who took the photo" - DUH - turn the photo over asshole! "didn't know how to find her" - my name was on TV all day long on VH1, a channel your videos were played on and on which you appeared to pimp your records - and here's the best one - "we thought maybe one of the band's girlfriends took the picture" - as if that would have excused infringement?

of course, they buckled and settled once they asked my lawyer "does your client want to go to court? it will take forever" - because all he had to say was "copyright infringement = statutory compensation - we'll wait and let the meter run..." they paid up in no time

as for archiving stuff:

in all the years i worked at PBS, i can GUARANTEE YOU that making a back up copy of stuff that is deteriorating is A OK so long as you do not do so to sell, make a profit or otherwise infringe on the rights of the copyright holder. music was made to be listened to. archive/preservation is a whole different barrel of monkeys. you aren't supposed to sell it as a product... you are supposed to keep it for posterity and reference.

the library of congress, which holds the deposit material of your copyright-registered stuff - and they charge you $300 minimum to get a back up copy of YOUR OWN MATERIAL - why? because they strike a new master copy. its much to much to get into here - but i fought PBS's "donation/archiving" at the LOC because that material PBS wanted to "donate" simply to take off our premises - was stuff we used in other programming fairly regularly and would have torpedoed many a budget and schedule... for starters

by the way - in the UK - copyrights on masters are all pretty much going to be going PD within the next few years if a few people get their way...
Posted: May 21, 2008 6:24 am
I agree. "It could be done better" seems like point.

As I stated before, if Lessig don't like it, I don't like it. When I first heard about the orphan issue, I thought, I bet this is something Lessig would be into...and I'm sure he is, but not this particular bill as currently written.
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