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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Orphan Works Act: Warning to the Public

Should the general public care about the Orphan Works Act?
Yes, because the effects of this bill will expose any citizen's visual images to infringement, including infringement for commercial purposes or distasteful uses.

Most people don't understand current copyright law. But under current law, they don't have to - the law itself protects them from not understanding it. Anything you create is considered your private property.

But under this amendment, all citizens would be required to understand that they must now take active steps - not to actually protect their work (because registries won't protect it) – but merely to preserve their right to sue an infringer in federal court (in case they ever find out they've been infringed in the first place).

Otherwise, ignorance of copyright law will be be no excuse against an infringer who has done a "reasonably diligent search" for a photo he found on a blog, photo sharing site, Facebook page, or other source.

Proposal for Copyright Warning and Public Awareness Campaign
If this bill is passed, copyright will no longer be considered the exclusive right of the creator. Therefore, Congress should direct the Copyright Office to commence an awareness campaign to be conducted in all media, explaining to all copyright holders the new terms of copyright protection. Public warnings should state at least the following:

“Due to a change in US copyright law, citizens should now be aware that any creative expression they put into tangible form – from professional artwork to family photos - will be subject to infringement, including infringement for commercial uses, by anyone in the United States who is unable to locate them by what the infringer determines – and a court agrees - to be a reasonably diligent search.

“To preserve your right to sue infringers in federal court, you are advised to take active steps to assert authorship of every work you create.

“These steps will include inserting meta-data in each work, marking each work with a copyright symbol and contact information and registering each work in commercial databases where infringers can search for your work.

“Ignorance of copyright law will be be no excuse against an infringer who has done a “reasonably diligent search” according to guidelines established by Congress.”

This should be the minimum warning information and it should be issued to the public on an on-going basis to alert successive generations of the legal obligations they will have to observe as the price of creating art of any kind. We also ask Congress to direct the Copyright Office to establish and maintain local law clinics where creators and other citizens can seek clarification about their obligations under Orphan Works law.

Don't Let Congress Orphan Your Work

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:

Please forward this message to every artist you know.

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