Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Illness, Orphan Works, & Some Flowers

Where does the time go? I just noticed that my last post was in early April - and now it's July! Where did I disappear to for so long? Well, I fell quite ill in the end of April and did little more than stay home, sleep, and watch tv for several weeks. I've never been so sick in all my life and hope that I'm never so sick again!

So, since then I've spent massive amounts of time researching and implementing a new crazy-strict diet that I'm trying out in the hopes that it will help to keep me healthy. Unfortunately (or fortunately), carrying out the diet requires a good deal of home-cooking, label-reading, and searching for obscure ingredients. This is not so bad to me since I like cooking, but my goodness, it has been a time-sink recently.

Anyway, I do have a new piece of art to post, but I'm holding it for a future post. I'd meant to post months ago about the Orphan Works Act that's currently in Congress, but sleeping on the couch seemed much more important (and unavoidable) at the time. So I know I'm really late on the subject, but in the off-chance that there's anybody left out there who still doesn't know about this - There are currently two bills making their way through government - the Senate version, S. 2913: Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008 and the House version, H.R. 5889: Orphan Works Act of 2008. The bills set out to free up "orphaned works" (those which are no longer covered by copyright or whose copyright owners cannot be found) for use by cultural institutions, museums, libraries, etc. Sounds nice in principle, but the bills have been drafted in such a broad, sweeping manner that living copyright owners' work may be considered "orphaned" simply because an infringer/user could not locate the owner.

Most artists are upset about this legislation for many reasons -
- If someone else is using our work, without our permission/knowledge, than the exclusivity of our right to exploit the work (as set out in current copyright law) is null and void. We would lose a degree of decision making power regarding our own work. For those that don't know - it's very important to maintain exclusivity of the rights to one's works especially when licensing work to companies, as many arrangements are for specific exclusive rights, i.e. exclusive greeting card rights, etc.
- the possibility of needing to register our work with multiple (currently non-existent) databases to avoid unwanted use at unknown expense to the artist and potentially large amounts of time uploading art that would be better spent on making new art.
- the limitation on damages for unauthorized use
- violation of international copyright law
And so on.... Brad Holland of the Illustrators Partnership explains it in this audio interview. He's speaking in 2008, but referring to the 2006 versions of the bills since the 2008 versions were not available at the time. All the same, it is still relevant to the current proposals:

The Illustrators Partnership has tons of articles on the subject. The most current ones are at the bottom of the page. This one is set up as a Q & A.

For an opinion not directly from an artist, here's a letter to the House of Representatives from a lawyer who works with creative industries.

So, what to do - if you want to oppose these amendments, there are several pre-written, editable e-mail letters here. All you have to do is choose a letter, fill in your name and address and you're done.

For people outside the U.S. wishing to oppose the amendments, there's a letter here. Scroll to the bottom to find addresses where to send them. International voices are very important in opposing these bills as they will affect artists and creators globally.

And lastly, there's a petition, albeit not the most well-written one, here.

The broad manner in which these bills were written seem, to me at least, to be the product of a society and/or people that regard art & its inherent bundle of exclusive rights as something other than personal private property (which is exactly what it is - the "P" in "IP") and what artists do as something less than work. I'm all for cultural institutions getting access to truly orphaned works - just not at the expense of the living artists who create the content that will fill their halls in the future.

So, that's the last of my activism for today. Now, to happy-it-up around here with some pictures of wildflowers taken back in April pre-illness. These pictures were taken off the side of the highway on my husband's drive to work:

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