May 8th, 2008

The Zombie

Please, Sir...May I Have Some More (Rights)?

May 7 - IMPORTANT NEWS FOR ALL U.S. ARTISTS!  PLEASE READ!  For the last thirty-plus years or so, U.S. law has held that the creator of a work of art automatically owns the full, legal copyright to that artwork, and that's as it should be.  Today, however, there is a serious attempt to change that sneaking it's way through Congress.  It's called H.R.5889 - The Orphan Works Act of 2008 (with this one, S.2913 - The Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008, also involved).  In a nutshell, the "Orphan Works Act" is designed to exempt re-users of any artist's creative production from fear of legal repercussions.  All that would be required is that the re-user claim that he or she made an effort - of any sort - to locate the original artist for permission.  In other words, I could poke my head out of a window, quietly whisper "If anyone out there owns the copyright to this image of Mickey Mouse, speak up or I'm going to make and sell T-shirts featuring it," and, if I heard no objections, I could fully and legally be allowed to do just that.  CRAZY!  And it's not just the visual artists who'll be screwed.  Any creative work (from poetry to science-fiction) from any era (modern or antiquated) would fall prey to anyone who wanted to steal them.  The original impetus for this seems to be somewhat legitimate.  The example always cited is that of a Mathew Brady photograph of a Civil War soldier.  Although clearly copyrighted at the time (a time in which it was required to have a copyright mark to be considered so, might I add), there should be some way in which it could legally be reproduced by a museum or library for certain purposes.  Although this example is at the extreme end of the spectrum, it is being used to justify the destruction of all artist's rights to their own works, even if the artist went through the added burden of officially copyrighting the work with the government!  I don't have to tell you that this will nearly cripple the small guys (like me).  Most of the stuff I do professionally is, for whatever reason, printed without my name or copyright notice on it.  Not that such a notice would even matter, should this proposal become law.  Ugh!  Hopefully it's not too late to take action, though.  Please check this site for what you might be able to do about all of this...but hurry!  This is moving very quickly because of the niche interest (as in "too few voters or financial supporters involved to give a darn") and bipartisan support.  DOUBLE-UGH!  It's like a nightmare!  Even if the bills get amended, their passing into law would still be a very dark day for the American creative spirit. In effect, this "Act" would "Orphan" all U.S. artists.  More Oconocon report later.  I'm too upset right now.  Here's your Soon To Be Copyright-Free, Hat-Wearing Comic Book Character of The Day - Foolkiller!