In Berne Convention, Copyright, Copyright Office Orphan Works Study, Marybeth Peters, Orphan Works amendments

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 that would have made it a true orphan works bill. The amendments were drafted by the 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.

Showing 2 comments
  • Andresen

    Time to start calling and writing again. Thanks. Boy, this still pisses me off.

  • edna cabcabin moran

    Hi, I forwarded the latest announcement to my network and today I received a note from a fellow illustrator quoting another illustrator:

    "…That night the Senate stayed late over the bailout, at 9:pm they passed the Orphaned Works bill as a through [sic] away piece of legislation… And then the HOUSE voted it the next day
    (a Saturday) I was watching cspan live, and checked on the bills and the VOTING the next day or so on Thomas..It really did pass with some shocking yes votes from legislators I wouldn't have thought would vote it in!"

    There is a bit of confusion in the illustrator community over this. Can you help clarify what occurred in the fall? Thanks!

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