Sunday, April 20, 2008

Corporatist America vs. The Artist

A little while back, a commenter below raised the spectre of artists getting ripped off. And three days ago, a DreamWorks artist brought the same issue up. So clearly it's a subject worth exploring:

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 ...

(Update: Commenters below -- in particular the estimable Kevin Geiger -- point out how misleading this article is ... and by extension, how wrong I am (was?) for buying into it. For a full airing of the issue, continue on to the "comments" thread.)

Of late, the U.S. of A. has become an expert at breaking the rest of the world's laws, so why shouldn't we go break another one?

Here's the reason: This time, we're not making mischief overseas, but robbing American citizens, in particular citizens who draw, photograph, paint, those kinds of things.

"This will devastate the livelihood of artists, photographers and designers in a number of ways. ... 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" ...

Not good. Not necessary. And doesn't Bill Gates have enough money already, without stealing from others?

Go now and write or phone your senator and congress person, and let them know how much this sucks. As I am.

26 comments:

Cory and Tashina said...

Wow. Just...Wow. That's all I have to say.

Anonymous said...

Here is an alternate, less alarmist analysis by Meredith Patterson that indicates the AWN article may be not much above an internet rumor:

So, here are six misconceptions that are making the rounds about orphaned works, and a short explanation of why each one is a misinterpretation or just a flat-out lie. I also give links to useful supporting material, and resources you can use to keep track of this issue as it evolves.

1. "There's legislation before Congress right now that will enact major changes in US copyright law regarding orphaned works! We have to act immediately!"

Actually, no, there isn't. Even the Illustrators Partnership admits this, so I don't know where Mark Simon gets this idea. There may very well be a bill introduced this legislative session, but no such bill has surfaced yet. That gives you, artists and authors, time to get familiar with the actual legislative landscape, research what might be proposed in a bill, and decide for yourself what position to take.


full commentary: http://maradydd.livejournal.com/374886.html

Kevin Geiger said...

Sigh. Here go the alarm bells again. The folks at AN have their shorts in a twist over this as well. And as "important" as everyone claims the issue is, few seem to think it warrants an objective read of the Office of Copyright's 2006 report on orphaned works:
http://www.copyright.gov/orphan/orphan-report-full.pdf

Far better to allow oneself to be alarmed by the shrill reactions of others, I suppose.

Kevin Geiger said...

A must-read excert from the Register of Copyrights' March 13th, 2008 statement on the "Orphan works issue.
http://www.copyright.gov/docs/regstat031308.html

The Orphan Works Problem

As you know, in 2005, with direction from this Subcommittee and the Senate Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, the Copyright Office conducted a comprehensive investigation of the orphan works problem. In 2006, we published our findings and recommendations in a study entitled Report on Orphan Works. The Report documents the nature of the orphan works problem, as synthesized from the more than 850 written comments we received and the various accounts brought to our attention during three public roundtables and numerous other meetings and discussions.

We heard from average citizens who wished to have old photographs retouched or repaired but were denied service by the photo shops. Unfortunately, if those photographs were taken by professionals (for example, wedding photos), the photo shops' actions make sense under the current law: they know that the photographer, not the customer, probably holds the copyright in the photograph. They ask the customer to produce evidence that the photographer has agreed to allow the reproduction of the photo (which will be necessary to retouch or repair the photo). But of course the customer has no idea who the photographer at his parents' wedding was, or quickly hits a brick wall when attempting to track that person down. Many other examples were presented to us as well, from museums that want to use images in their archival collections to documentary filmmakers who want to use old footage.

In fact, the most striking aspect of orphan works is that the frustrations are pervasive in a way that many copyright problems are not. When a copyright owner cannot be identified or is unlocatable, potential users abandon important, productive projects, many of which would be beneficial to our national heritage. Scholars cannot use the important letters, images and manuscripts they search out in archives or private homes, other than in the limited manner permitted by fair use or the first sale doctrine. Publishers cannot recirculate works or publish obscure materials that have been all but lost to the world. Museums are stymied in their creation of exhibitions, books, websites and other educational programs, particularly when the project would include the use of multiple works. Archives cannot make rare footage available to wider audiences. Documentary filmmakers must exclude certain manuscripts, images, sound recordings and other important source material from their films. The Copyright Office finds such loss difficult to justify when the primary rationale behind the prohibition is to protect a copyright owner who is missing. If there is no copyright owner, there is no beneficiary of the copyright term and it is an enormous waste. The outcome does not further the objectives of the copyright system.

Anonymous said...

My question involves an issue that doesn't relate to a cash exchange regarding a work of art, and so it may be a bit of a digression...yet I've often wondered about this:

Has anyone here seen what has happened to copyrighted characters at places like deviant art.com, where anyone can take a cartoon character, draw it into highly questionable situations (it's called "slash", I believe) and display the drawing on the internet for anyone, including kids, to see? I asked about this once and was told it was "fair use". Well, that's not how I understand the term. The images are not being used for study, review, commentary or parody; they're just used for a public self-indulgence and are unsavory at best. Is there anything artists can do to stop the practice? I'm thinking not only of artists' rights but how that "art" affects any poor kid who may stumble upon it.

Anonymous said...

If all your afraid kids stumbling across on the internet is some cartoon charcaters in questionable fanart you're not looking closely enough.
As for this orphan bill hoax, I'm sad to see that this web-site has fallen for the dis-information too - especially after it had been so well exposed some time ago. I thought the only one still trying to make a cause of it is that self promoting cling-on boob that runs that has-been site AN.

Anonymous said...

If all you're afraid of kids stumbling across on the internet is some cartoon characters in questionable fanart you're not looking closely enough.
As for this orphan bill hoax, I'm sad to see that this usually informed blog has fallen for the dis-information too - especially after it had been so well exposed some time ago. I thought the only one still trying to make a cause of it is that self promoting, cling-on boob that runs that has-been site AN.

Anonymous said...

I'm well aware of the stuff kids can find on the net, Anonymous the Double-Poster. But it's one thing for kids to stumble across an adult porn site. It's quite another for a kid to come upon an "art" site frequented by young kids that allows abuse of other people's property, not to mention material meant for children, in order to titillate the abuser's own sick, sorry self and his/her fellow cretins. I'm surprised artists haven't tried to shut such sites down. If they don't give a damn about ill-use of their own creations, they could at least give a damn about the kids.

Anonymous said...

If it bothers you that much feel free to clean-up the internet. Let me know how that works out for you...

Steve Hulett said...

In fact, the most striking aspect of orphan works is that the frustrations are pervasive in a way that many copyright problems are not. When a copyright owner cannot be identified or is unlocatable, potential users abandon important, productive projects, many of which would be beneficial to our national heritage. Scholars cannot use the important letters, images and manuscripts they search out in archives or private homes, other than in the limited manner permitted by fair use or the first sale doctrine. Publishers cannot recirculate works or publish obscure materials that have been all but lost to the world. Museums are stymied in their creation of exhibitions, books, websites and other educational programs, particularly when the project would include the use of multiple works.

Thanks for the correction and update, Kevin. We all make mistakes (and God knows I make mine. As I have -- apparently -- here.)

But as for obscure works being lost: if the works (photos, artwork, etc.) are older than 86 years (1922) they are most likely in the Public Domain. (Motion pictures copyrighted in '21 or before are P.D.)

If a film's copyright wasn't renewed -- this applies to a number of Warner Bros. cartoons from the WWII period, also John Wayne's McLintock! ('63), and various other live-action feature films -- then they are also public domain.

Once something has fallen out of copyright, it's p.d. to the end of time.

Kevin Geiger said...

Hi Steve,

No mistake made or mea culpa required. :-) I just wanted to make sure that all the info is laid out and given due consideration before we all start hoisting the pitchforks and torches.

Copyright law is certainly something to be vigilant about - which is exactly why we owe it to ourselves to research the facts of the matter.

KG

(Ironically, I'm writing this from China, a land where such finer points of the copyright issue are - let's just say - moot.) ;-)

Anonymous said...

I won't have to "clean up the internet". It's just a matter of time before the gov't steps in. Look what happened to the networks after the Superbowl "wardrobe malfunction". People who aren't smart enough or classy enough to regulate themselves will themselves get regulated. It's as inevitable as death and taxes.

Anonymous said...

NET NEUTRALITY FOREVER!!!

Save the internet from fools like this!!

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, the self-righteous freedom of theft - excuse me - freedom of speech argument again. The best way to "save the internet" is for fools to stop spouting nitwit slogans and support artists' rights to protect their property from online exploitation by nuts, sexual misfits, child predators and candidates for intensive therapy. I'm not in favor of gov't regulation of media. But it's gonna happen anyway thanks to people who lack discretion and common sense when it comes to what they allow on their websites. Regulation is only a matter of time...

Anonymous said...

ROFLMAO....he's not for it, but it's gonna happen anyway so you might as well not do anything about it. And, of course, it's all to be blamed on those that aren't as self-righteous as he is.

This sounds like the type of guy who is easily offended by his kids seeing anything sexual, but would let his kids watch slasher movies - as long as there were no boobies in it, of course ...

My guess is that he's not an artist either - if he was he'd know that a large percentage of this 'offensive' art is created by professionals.

Anonymous said...

The person above has given an excellent demonstration of how a weak mind seizes on a stereotype in order to insult others. Bravo! Bravo! Most instructive. Sadly, slander and personal attacks on those who believe differently from them are exactly what you can expect from "liberal" minds. Say, I'll bet you let *your* kids watch porn while blocking anything to do with evil American soldiers fighting overseas. And if "professionals" really are drawing some of the crud out there, crud that violates any reasonable person's idea of decency, plus violates an artist' ownership of his creations, then it's painfully obvious that there are some "professionals" out there who not only need therapy, they need art instruction.

Anonymous said...

Is this guy stumping for chairman of the FCC under Bush or what?

It sure is good to know that there's someone out there who is brave enough to say censorship is good!!

Bravo

Anonymous said...

Censorship is bad. But restraint, good judgement, respect for artist' rights and properties and concern for children are all good. It's a pity to see so few here who give a damn about those things, and who are so eager to defend the "rights" of those who have made the net such a dangerous place for children to be.

But they do fit the left-wing stereotype, spew the left-wing credo, so well, they're amusing. A sitcom writer couldn't style them any better.

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea: if you're worried about your children be a better parent. Don't expect society to do it for you.

Let's assume for aminute that's REALLY what your agenda is - which seems to have changed from protecting the rights of an artist's creation.

Anonymous said...

The artist's duty is to create and entertain, NOT to raise your spoiled bratty children!!

Try active parenting for a change, you lazy bastard! And btw, your therapist might want to talk to you about your control issues.


R.

Anonymous said...

Wow. It's clear YOU were well brought up. *snort* Man, challenge a liberal, and they fume and foam and hurl insults. Say, speaking of liberal hypocrisy, didn't your heroine, Hillary Clinton, write a book called "It Takes A Village" (the rest of that sentence, BTW, is "to raise a child")? So much for not expecting society to help parents raise their children, eh? Well, I'm sure you DO believe in protecting children - unless it interferes with your fun, or requires you to take responsiblity for your actions, or to give a damn for somebody besides your selfish li'l self. I feel sorry for YOUR kids (although, frankly, I hope to god you don't actually have any).

Anonymous said...

Okay...everyone raise your hands if you guessed correctly that the guy who favors censorship is a Republican.

Hmmm...don't Republicans favor not having Gov't involve themselves in people's personal lives. I'm sorry, that's only what they say not what they do...

Anonymous said...

Wrong again. I'm an independent and an agnostic, what's more. And it may surprise you further that concerned parents come from all across the political spectrum. My point is that websites that allow individuals to post art there should show some respect for artists' properties, and a little discretion if children are frequent visitors. With freedom comes responsibility, after all.

Anonymous said...

If you find something offensive on a website, it's contingent upon you to put a block on it or not.

We artists have enough on our plate, to keep some income coming on a semi steady basis. And thank you very much for trying to limit our freedom of expression, last I heard this was a free country, not the USSR, you nazi fascist prick!\

I feel sorry for your overprotected kids!


R.

Anonymous said...

and by blocking it, I meant on your computer/browser.

Buit I guess you can't figure out how to do that either, and expect us to figura that out for you as well?

Hey you want me to go and serve your kids breakfast in bed as well?

R.

Rini said...

It should also be noted that deviantart.com technically is NOT for children. Every user who signs up agrees that they are at least 13 years old. So, if there are young children perusing the site, then they likely shouldn't even be there in the first place. Artists can also flag their own work as Mature so that it doesn't appear to minors.

I don't agree that society should police themselves for the sake of children (that doesn't mean that we should go crazy with content in just any old place, either); if a site has questionable content, then the parent can regulate where their child should or should not go.

Also, I'm glad that the Orphaned Works hulabaloo has been straightened out. It's actually a pretty good thing, when used sensibly.

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