In Artists Rights, Copyright, Illustrators Partnership, Orphan Works

OSLO NORWAY Over 60 authors organizations met here this week to discuss strategies for defending authors’ rights in the digitized world. Their call to action is reminiscent of the grassroots coalition that came together in the US last year to oppose the Orphan Works bill. In addition to concerns over anti-copyright legislation, authors around the world, including visual artists, face threats from piracy, unauthorized usage, all-rights contracts and, in the US, the loss and/or dissipation of their reprographic royalties.

The Oslo meeting was held concurrent with the anniversary of the founding of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations (IFRRO). IFRRO was born in Oslo 25 years ago. In the last quarter century, it has grown to 190 members and associate members, of which the Illustrators’ Partnership is one.

IFRRO was founded by a small group of visionaries who believed that there was a need for an international organization of Reprographic Rights Organizations (RROs). RROs are collecting societies that monitor and clear rights to authors’ creations in collective works such as books, magazines, etc. They grant rights, as mandated by authors, collect fees and return royalties to illustrators, artists, writers and others.

Collecting societies are a new concept to most American illustrators. They exist in countries around the world, but currently, there are none for illustrators in the US. Two years ago, the Illustrators’ Partnership brought together 12 prominent visual arts organizations. These groups have incorporated as the American Society of Illustrators Partnership (ASIP).

ASIP, which has been chartered as a collecting society, hopes to begin the long-overdue process of bringing accountability to illustrators’ reprographic rights. The 12 founding groups of ASIP also formed the nucleus of the 85 organizations that opposed the Orphan Works bill. In future reports, we’ll tell you more about what illustrators can do individually to help us build this formal coalition into a functioning society.

Another Anniversary: The 1999 Santa Fe Conference

The meeting of authors this week in Oslo recalls another anniversary closer to home: the first Illustrators Conference, which opened 10 years ago this week in Santa Fe.

The Santa Fe Conference was a grassroots event founded by 8 artists and reps who believed that illustrators should not accept a slow evolution toward the dissolution of their rights. The conference led to the creation of the Illustrators’ Partnership – founded by 3 of the same artists- to act on the initiatives first raised at that pioneering event.

So now, as authors worldwide issue a call for cooperative action, we’re pleased to note that the spirit of Santa Fe, invoked by illustrators a decade ago, is still alive and well in the US. It’s the spirit that guided artists in Washington last year and with luck, it may yet swell and aid in the preservation of copyright law, which is the legal means by which the distinctive expressions of individuals are themselves preserved.

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