Saturday, June 20, 2009

The return of Orphan Works

In Orphan Works Land, no news has been good news, but that's about to change.

US Copyright Register Marybeth Peters told Intellectual Property Watch that orphan works legislation is expected to be introduced within the next 10 days. It is her understanding there may still be some issues in the House version to be resolved, and there are some stakeholders - such as illustrators and other artists - "who are probably going to lobby pretty hard against it."

Peters said this issue is important to her, and the fact it came so close to passing last year is almost bittersweet. "What I hope it isn't ... is it's one magic moment you get" to finally get it passed, then it doesn't happen, she said.

We don't mean to disparage the Register's comments. She's had a long and distinguished career at the Copyright Office. But her statement deserves a reality check. Illustrators are not opposed to an orphan works bill. We're opposed to this bill.

We're opposed because its scope far exceeds the needs of responsible orphan works legislation.

Moreover, illustrators and artists are not the only stakeholders who oppose it. At last count, more than 83 creators organizations are on record against it, representing artists, photographers, writers, songwriters, musicians and countless small businesses.

Last year, we proposed amendments to the Orphan Works Act that would have made it a true orphan works bill. The amendments were drafted by the attorney who was chief legal counsel to the House Judiciary Committee in drafting the 1976 Copyright Act. The amendments were co-sponsored by the Artists Rights Society and the Advertising Photographers of America. They can be found here:

On July 11, 2008, we submitted those amendments to both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. In our preamble we wrote this:

As rights holders, we can summarize our hopes for the Orphan Works Act simply: to see that it becomes a true orphan works bill, with no unnecessary spillover effect to damage the everyday commercial activities of working artists. We'd be happy to work with Congress to accomplish this. No legislation regarding the use of private property should be considered without the active participation of those whose property is at stake.

Last year more than 180,000 letters were sent to lawmakers from our Capwiz site. These letters did not come from obstructionists. They came from citizens whose property is at stake. They may lack the resources of big Internet companies and the access of high powered lobbyists, but last year they spoke. They asked only one thing: that Congress respect their personal property rights and amend this bill to make it nothing more than what its sponsors say they want it to be - a bill that would affect only true orphaned work.

We urge this Congress to listen.

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


For news and information, and an archive of these messages:
Illustrators' Partnership Orphan Works Blog.

Over 83 organizations opposed the last Orphan Works bills, representing over half a million creators. Illustrators, photographers, fine artists, songwriters, musicians, and countless licensing firms all believe this bill will harm their small businesses.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Doing plenty of evil

Google's unofficial motto is "Don't be evil."

The thinking is that doing the right thing breeds trust and respect for the brand and company among customers that in the long run outweighs doing the underhanded or unethical for a short term gain.

It's a nice philosophy.

It would be nice if Google actually practiced what they preached.

In the first three months of 2009, Google reported a profit of $1.42 billion. That's a lot of money. And it was made during the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

You would think that a company that was still making fistloads of cash would be willing to pay illustrators. You'd be wrong.

Over the past few months Google has been asking many illustrators to contribute artwork so people can personalize the appearance of the soon-to-be released browser, Chrome. They have the audacity not to pay. Understandably some rather prominent illustrators have said no.

Google says the they do not pay for these projects, but instead offer terrific exposure and a unique opportunity to promote the use of illustration.

This isn't promotion. Its exploitation. Its evil.

A company as big as Google should pay for the use of illustrations like so many other businesses, both large and small, do every single day. They certainly can afford to pay who work for them.

The work that illustrators do adds value to all types of projects and products. They deserve to be compensated for the value they add.

By they way, Google doesn't give away its services or products for free.

Why should Google expect the independent contractors working for them to give away their work?