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The Orphan Works Act

9/30/2008 Update:

In the confusion of last week's economic crisis, the sponsors of the Orphan Works Act used a trick to sneak this disastrous bill past the U.S. Senate by using a controversial practice known as hotlining.*

We encourage our readers to immediately contact their Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives and urge them not to pass the Senate's version of this bill. For ongoing developments and a quick link to email your Representative, go to the Illustrators' Partnership Orphan Works blog: www.ipaorphanworks.blogspot.com.

*For a bill to be hotlined, the Senate Majority Leader and Minority Leader must agree to pass it by unanimous consent, without a roll-call vote. The two leaders then inform Senate Members of this agreement by using special hotlines installed in each office and give Members a specified amount of time to object — often as little as 15–30 minutes. If no objections are registered, the bill is passed. Hotlining is often done during wrap-up at the end of the day — which can occur well after Members' offices have closed for business. If the staff do not call back ... the bill passes.

Below is an excellent explanation of why the Orphan Works act now before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives is a bad idea for everyone.

- Jay Nelson
Editor & Publisher
Design Tools Monthly


JUNE 2, 2008
An Orphan Works Update

Backers of the House version of the Orphan Works bill are now asking artists and photographers to oppose the Senate bill unless it's amended to contain at least the "minimum provisions" that appear in the House version. 

Although they don't say so, opposing the Senate bill in this manner is a vote FOR the House bill.

We've been asked to explain why:

The Senate bill is similar to the bill we opposed in 2006. The House bill (H.R. 5889) is the result of a year and a half of closed door negotiations between Congress and representatives and lobbyists for special interest groups. These groups have agreed to either endorse the House bill or remain neutral to insure its passage. 

The House bill endorses the concept of coerced "voluntary" registration with commercial databases and seeks to make these databases infringer-friendly.

– It would require infringers to file a simple "notice of use" before they infringe.

– It calls for an archive of the notices to be maintained by the Copyright Office or an approved third party.

Why do backers of the House bill want these databases to be infringer-friendly? Because to thrive, commercial databases (registries) will have to do a robust business in rights-clearing and orphan certification. That means encouraging infringers to infringe.

How will these registries work? No details have been given, but experience with image banks suggests the following:

For unregistered work: infringers will use the registries to identify pictures that aren't registered. Infringers will probably pay the registry a search fee, then use or market the "orphans" like royalty-free art. 

For registered work: the registries will act as a kind of stock house: Users will go to them for one-stop shopping to clear rights to your pictures. The registry will probably charge you a commission when they do. 

In other words, urging Congress to pass the House bill makes very little sense to us unless your business or organization expects to become a commercial registry. We believe the only way to oppose these bills is to oppose them both.

If you agree, now's the time to write Congress or write again.

You can urge Congress to oppose these bills by linking here to a special letter.  Tell Your Senators and Representatives to Oppose the Orphan Works Act at:  <http://capwiz.com/illustratorspartnership/issues/alert/?alertid=11442621>

Don't Let Congress Orphan Your Work

Please forward this message to every artist you know.

If you received our mail as a forwarded message, and wish to be added to our mailing list, email us at: [email protected]
Place "Add Name" in the subject line, and provide your name and the email address you want used in the message area.


Other Resources:

Graphic Artists Guild

Illustrators' Partnership

Interview with Brad Holland from the Illustrators' Partnership

American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP)



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