A very important change to the Copyright Law has been proposed which will have severe negative consequences for photographers and illustrators. The Copyright Office’s Report on Orphan Works deals with the issues of using copyrighted works where the owner cannot be found. This can be the case with old family photographs or out of print books.
However, the solution they propose will have the unfortunate effect of making it almost impossible for photographers to obtain a fair return when a user or abuser has taken their photograph and removed all copyright identification information. The statute suggests that a potential user, if they cannot identify the copyright owner, must make a good faith effort to find them, but provides NO MEANS for them to do so. This opens wide the door to infringers who will with impunity copy photographs found on the web. Photographers, even those who have registered their images with the copyright office, would only be entitled to a “reasonable fee” with no recourse if the user refused to pay.
A coalition of photography and illustrator associations including ASMP, Stock Artists Alliance, Editorial Photographers, NPPA and PACA opposes the legislation as it applies to the visual arts and is encouraging a fax campaign to Congress.
ASMP has a detailed page on Orphan Works showing what to do and how to fax your representatives and the members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. APA has a similar page regarding the Orphan Works Bill. PPA, Professional Photographers of America, also has a page and analysis.
PLEASE take a few minutes and send a fax to the members of the Judiciary Committee and to your own Senator and Congressman.
The Illustrator’s Partnership has kindly provided additional analysis.
Stock Artists Alliance now has an Orphan Works blog.