Copyright? Orphan Bill?

I was startled by this comment that I got from an artist whose work I posted recently. I asked her permission fo copy her work as an illustration to a critique I had posted.

She said ” I only ask that you put “Copyright (name of artist).  All Rights Reserved.  Reproduced By Permission of the Artist” beneath the picture in some form as the US is primed to pass the Orphan bill which would allow anyone who found the picture on your blog without reference to the copyright to use the image as they wish on the grounds that it is “orphaned.”

Have you heard of this proposal? Can anyone add to this information?

The change of legislation would make the posting of other people’s work on one’s blog an onerous thing, to have to put all that on in order to acknowledge a photo and/or an art work.

If one forgets….         does that mean that anytime one forgets to acknowledge a person’s work when they “borrow” it to illustrate the work or to illustrate some story, that the original creator of that work risks losing their copyright on their own work? That’s outrageous! If so, it would be better to remove all artwork, photos and illustrations from the ‘Net!

It’s especially dangerous, because anyone can lift one’s work from a Web site.

Here are some web postings that may clarify the issue for you:

These were the first few that I started to look at, then I realized there were over a million posts on the subject. I suggest, if you are interested in informing yourself about this American proposed bill, that you Google the term “Orphan Bill” and you will find many, many sites that have posted comments about it.

I downloaded an interview and it’s really worth listening to. You can pick it up at this site


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3 Responses to “Copyright? Orphan Bill?”

  1. projectchronix Says:

    Bah Bah… artists, ESPECIALLY photographers are way too scared over the Orphan Bill Proposal. Te way it’s discussed is really conceptually out of wack with the reality of the effect. The person who should worry about the orphan bill and it’s effects isn’t the artists, It’s the blogger who posts a art piece on, say, a blog. Let me explain….

    An “orphaned work” isn’t an easily identifiable thing in reality. The perseption that gets everyone so heated is that any work without a copyright tag is consider orphaned. A work is orphaned in terms of the bill when the copyright owner cannot be found “after a diligent search.” This creates the necessity of the burden (in court – lets say between someone who began selling a piece they found and the orginal artist) to fall on the stealer to prove by strong evidence that they gave a diligent search to locate the artist before hand. based on te theory underlying the policy behind the bill and the structure of our internet system, a stealer is going to be hardpressed to prove they could not locate a peice which was catagorcially added to the serach quiery systems. Thus, in application, all an artist would have to show is they digitally added the work online (thus putting it in the search query) with a tag in some way connecting it – (say barn, blue, realisim, anything with a connection) to the work, and they’d come out on top.

    Of course, one issue stems from this – those works without tags are essentially fucked and have no proof of being located.

    Still, everyone over looks the applicabilty of current copyright law to the senario… Under are current law, a copyright is applied to every work an artist creates when he creates it. You no longer have to register it. Thus, anywork really after 1923 (before copyright law existed in the US) is good until 70 years after the deat of the artist. Thus, one of my photos on flickr is copyrighted without me having to do shit to get it done (as is seen by the little mark down at the bottom below the photo). It just exists. If the need for a court judgement (say against a thief whose selling your work) arises, all a individual most do is show reasonable proof of creation thorugh some form of record, and they win. So, essentially, anything that goes thorugh the internet (the worrysome source at the heart of the debate) automatically holds a record thorugh your IP service records in the least, and most likly through all the sites it’s been posted, transfered to, from, etc; etc;

    This does leave issues though still: such as stolen film based pics physically stolen, and, say, canvas art stolen and transposed onto reprints.

    But….the reality is this… If your work is good enough to create profit in those situations listed above… you got alot of other measures to keep them from happening, and likewise a good lawyer who tells you what to do to prevent it. In todays world, works fro amateurs that go mainline doesn’t really “just occur”… there’s a long work perod before hand.

    No, the real issue in not the artist, but in risk to the blogger and the impact it might create in our cultural society. A person wishing to use a copyrighted work without permission (say pulling it over to your site for viewing by your readers) risks liability down the road they simply can’t combat against due to the high burden placed on them. So, say your site sells shit, you see an increase in sales in a year which just happens to correlate the timeperiod u pulled the work over for showing cuz u liked it w/o permission, ur gonna be easily liable for the diffrence in last years profits to this years profits… your simply fucked by the records.

    But the alternative is for bloggers to forego the use of works, which has the effect of incrementally diminishing our culture of ideas and creativity.

    So in your situation, she has no fear. why? because she has an email of you aksing to use her work. IE – best record u could ask for if your a thief.

    Anyhow, the bill does still suck, but the artists shouldn’t be worried a damn.

    Hope that was somewhat enlightening.

  2. rick mobbs Says:

    First I have heard of this. Can’t say I like it. What would motivate proposing such a bill? I like seeing work propagate itself, take on a life of its own. It reinforces the idea I have that art has its own work to do in the world apart from its creators wishes and intentions. But cutting away the artist’s rights isn’t right.

  3. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Project chronix,
    Thanks for your point of view.
    I’m not clear on the implications of this Bill, and being in Canada means that we are affected by the Bill while not even being in the jurisdiction of it.
    Frankly, I hope it does not pass; that there is sufficient rebellion against it that it does not come into effect.
    I don’t see that it is useful when the Copyright laws we have now are a pretty good safeguard for artists’ and photographers’ work.
    The more discussion there is around it, the more likely artists will become aware of their current rights and the implications of the intended legislation.

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