Mind Your Business: You Will Lose All the Rights to Your Own Art
As you know, I usually handle the subjects in my articles with a sense of humor. That is not the case this month. I find nothing funny about the new Orphan Works legislation that is before Congress.
In fact, it PISSES ME OFF!
As an artist, you have to read this article or you could lose everything you've ever created!
An Orphaned Work is any creative work of art where the artist or copyright owner has released their copyright, whether on purpose, by passage of time, or by lack of proper registration. In the same way that an orphaned child loses the protection of his or her parents, your creative work can become an orphan for others to use without your permission.
If you don't like to read long articles, you will miss incredibly important information that will affect the rest of your career as an artist. You should at least skip to the end to find the link for a fantastic interview with the Illustrators' Partnership about how you are about to lose ownership of your own artwork.
Currently, you don't have to register your artwork to own the copyright. You own a copyright as soon as you create something. International law also supports this. Right now, registration allows you to sue for damages, in addition to fair value.
What makes me so MAD about this new legislation is that it legalizes THEFT! The only people who benefit from this are those who want to make use of our creative works without paying for them and large companies who will run the new private copyright registries.
These registries are companies that you would be forced to pay in order to register every single image, photo, sketch or creative work.
It is currently against international law to coerce people to register their work for copyright because there are so many inherent problems with it. But because big business can push through laws in the United States, our country is about to break with the rest of the world, again, and take your rights away.
With the tens of millions of photos and pieces of artwork created each year, the bounty for forcing everyone to pay a registration fee would be enormous. We lose our rights and our creations, and someone else makes money at our expense.
This includes every sketch, painting, photo, sculpture, drawing, video, song and every other type of creative endeavor. All of it is at risk!
If the Orphan Works legislation passes, you and I and all creatives will lose virtually all the rights to not only our future work but to everything we've created over the past 34 years, unless we register it with the new, untested and privately run (by the friends and cronies of the U.S. government) registries. Even then, there is no guarantee that someone wishing to steal your personal creations won't successfully call your work an orphan work, and then legally use it for free.
In short, if Congress passes this law, YOU WILL LOSE THE RIGHT TO MAKE MONEY FROM YOUR OWN CREATIONS!
Why is this allowed to happen? APATHY and MONEY.
Artists have apathy and corporations have money.
We need to be heard in order to protect our incomes, our creations and our careers. GET OFF YOUR ASS!
That means writing letters to our congressmen and representatives. That means voicing your opinion about how we need copyright protection, as we've had since 1976, that protects everything we create from the moment we create it. This is the case around the world.
However, an Orphan Works bill is also in the works in Europe. I was speaking recently with Roger Dean, the famed artist of the Yes album covers, and he is greatly concerned with what will happen if Orphan Works bills become law.
"This will devastate the livelihood of artists, photographers and designers in a number of ways," Dean says. "That at the behest of a few hugely rich corporations who got rich by selling art that they played no part in the making of, the U.S. and U.K. governments are changing the copyright laws to protect the infringer instead of the creator. This is unjust, culturally destructive and commercial lunacy. This will not just hurt millions of artists around the world.
"On the other side of the coin, what argument will a U.S. court have with a Chinese company that insists it did its research in China and found nothing? If the cost of this is onerous for a U.S.-based artist, what will it be like for artists and small businesses in emergent economies?"
If an artist whose work is as famous as Roger Dean's is concerned with this legislation, it should be of great concern for all of us.
The people, associations and companies behind the Orphan Works bill state that orphaned works have no value. If that were true, no one would want them. However, these same companies DO WANT your work, they just don't want to pay for it. If someone wants something, IT HAS VALUE. It's pretty simple.
Some major art and photography associations, or I should say, the managers of the associations, support this bill. The reason they support it is that they will operate some of the registries and stand to make a lot of money. Some have already been given millions of dollars by the Library of Congress. Follow the money and you will see why some groups support this bill of legalized theft of everything you have ever created.