Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Orphan Works Bill - Please Take Action to Support Living Artists!

The entire Artists' Community is abuzz about this Orphan Works Bill. It has already passed in the House and is waiting for decision in the Senate. Artists are not happy as it is designed to make copyright works more easily accessible to those that would use the work without compensating the artist.

For information on the Bill and it's wording, check here at the Library of Congress online.

Talking Points and Action you can take by the

Backers of the Orphan Works bill are circulating their Talking Points:

"Neither the House nor the Senate drafts of the bill contain the word "registries," [they write] but rather they require users to search non-governmental databases of copyrighted works. The purpose of any database is not meant to take the place of copyright registration, but to have a way to search for visual images. Any participation in such a database would be voluntary."

But this doesn't mean what it appears to say. Take it point by point:

Talking Point #1: "Neither the House nor the Senate drafts of the bill contain the word `registries. ' "
Response: Correct. They contain the word "databases," a synonym:

Registry: register: an official written record of names or events or transactions

Database: A database is a structured collection of records or data

Q: Why a synonym?
A: Because international copyright law forbids member countries to impose registries as a condition of protecting copyrights: Berne/Article 5(2) "The enjoyment and the exercise of these rights shall not be subject to any formality."

In other words, if they used the word "registries" in the bills, it would be a red flag to other countries that the US is flirting with non-compliance with international treaties.

Talking Point #2: "...rather they [the bills] require users to search non-governmental databases of copyrighted works."
Response: Non-governmental databases" means databases maintained in the private sector. For users to find your work in these commercial databases, your work would first have to be in the database. Work not in the database would be orphaned.

Talking Point #3: "Any participation in such a database would be voluntary."
Response: Congress cannot pass a bill making registration mandatory because that would violate Berne/Article 5(2). And that would state explicitly to other countries that the US no longer intends to honor its international agreements. There are red flags all over these talking points.

Summing up: The Orphan Work bills would mandate the creation of registries by commercial interests. You would not be legally forced to place your work with these for-profit registries. But failure to do so would orphan your work.

The deceptive talking points accompanying this bill are another red flag.

— Brad Holland and Cynthia Turner, for the Board of the Illustrators' Partnership

Take Action/ Write Congress

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Please support living artists - please take action now!
Thank you!

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