I just sent Ted Kennedy's office this email, regarding the Orphan Works Act, which...ah if you're actually interested, read on.
Senator Kennedy, I'm sorry to nuisance you in this already difficult time. Please know that you are in our thoughts and we wish you a speedy return to good health. We are saddened at the news, but confident in your strength and resilience.
I have been a freelance illustrator for almost ten years, working in Massachusetts, then New York, and now Massachusetts again. I am extremely concerned about this bill, (S. 2913) which declares the innocent intentions of cataloging artworks, but within the details seems ready to crush the careers of individual artists.
This bill will allow parties (businesses or individuals) to take images for whatever purpose they need, without appropriate compensation. They may do this after pretending to search for the image's creator on databases, managed by large corporations (Copyright Clearance Center, Graphic Artists Guild, DigiMarc, Google, InfoFlows, PicScout, PLUS, Audible Magic and Corbis), who will force artists to register, on a per-image basis all of their works. This is another attempt at privatization, bypassing public entities such as the Library of Congress, who traditionally would organize the works and endeavors of our citizens.
These database/registry corporations know that a successful, independent artist has vast amounts of work, making it financially and logistically impossible to register all of them. They also know that beginning artists probably would not make enough money to register their works. Therefore, the works by all of these artists will then become "orphaned", regardless of the efforts that the artist would make to retain ownership. The registries and stock illustration/photography houses stand to collect vast amounts of these 'orphaned' artworks, and then resell them without compensation to the artists.
It will create two things, an enormous siphoning of existing images by stock houses ...and a chill among artists creating and sharing their work. A chill on creativity is not what any american industry needs right now.
For example: I have an image in my portfolio that brings in a lot of business. It's a zombie picture that, for whatever reason, people seem to like. I get emails from people all over the world, asking to use it. I can usually turn this interest into an opportunity to create original work for the buyer, or if they are a small organization, I'll allow them to use it gratis for their spooky-walk fundraiser or whatever it is. I decide.
Let's say I am unaware of the OWA, as many artists are, and I fail to register that image. It now slips into the orphan category and a Stock illustration house may register it as their own. Not only have I lost the right to control or be compensated for use of that image, and not only I have also created profit for a company who simply "found" my "orphaned" image, I am now forced to compete with that image for the rest of my career.
If you're interested in helping people like me continue to make pictures for a living, please email of call your Senator (I believe the bill has already passed the House).