Orphan Works legislation is a term that strikes dread into the heart of every visual artist. Like a bad smell, its back again. There was so much opposition from artists when changes were proposed to copyright law in the past, that the US Copyright Office is asking visual artists for their views now, before the proposed legislation is even written. It is imperative that we make our views known and protect our copyright.
The Illustrator’s Partnership has been at the forefront of protecting artists’ rights in this matter. They point out that the proposed legislation will replace all existing copyright law, will remove your automatic right to the copyright of your creative work, will pressure you to register every piece you create (with a for-profit company) and will allow anyone to use your images commercially as long as the copyright infringement was in “good faith”.
What this could mean in practice is that to retain copyright, an artist would have to pay to register every image that will be viewed online or in print and every piece they exhibit or sell. That means every sketch, drawing, color study, photograph, and finished artwork. I just did a quick count on this blog and in the last 4 months I have posted 53 different sketches, photos and paintings. I also have social media pages and my website, where numerous images are posted. I have a book of my work from Tanzania. I have work hanging in 1 exhibit and have work being sent to 2 more. I have limited edition giclees. The list goes on. Paying to register all this work (and completing the necessary paperwork) would probably put me out of business, through financial and time constraints. And it would make it impossible for me to market my work online the way I currently do, because every image I use could be appropriated for commercial use without my knowledge, without my approval, with no credit line included and with no payment to me.
I have sent my letter to the US Copyright Office voicing my opinions and if you are an artist or photographer, I would ask you to do the same.
The deadline is July 23, 2015!
Here’s what you need to do.
- Create a letter to the US Copyright Office, save it on your computer as a PDF (preferred), a Word document, WordPerfect, Rich Text File or ASCII text file. Explain in your letter what copyright means for you, how long you have been an artist and mention all organizations you are a member of.
- Use this link to fill in your details and attach the file.
- Share this information with your artist friends online.