Scary new copyright laws?

By now many of you are already informed about the proposed Orphan Works Act being introduced to the U.S. house and senate. For those unaware, this legislation, if enacted, can effectively undermine and dismantle your existing copyright protection.

Currently, copyright is granted the moment a work is created. This new Orphan Works legislation proposes a change in U.S. copyright that would (indirectly) require artists, illustrators, photographers, and any creative individual to actively maintain and defend their copyright by registering each and every work with privatized registrars.

Failure to do so would leave everything you’ve ever created as an artist up for grabs by anyone who wanted to copy, reproduce, create derivative works of, or flat out steal your work since the act defines an “orphan work” as any work where the author is unidentifiable or unlocatable, and applies to both published and unpublished works, U.S. and foreign, regardless of age.

This is completely contradictory with international copyright standards and is ethically, logistically, and financially bonkers.

The two bills are S.2913, the Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008 and H.R.5889, the Orphan Works Act of 2008. Markup of the Bentley bill is this Thursday, May 15, and it’s not too late to voice your concerns.

Taking action to prevent this from happening is not only vital, but incredibly easy. U.S. citizens, simply fill out one of these templates provided by the Illustrators Partnership and your opposition will automatically be e-mailed to your members of Congress.

Non-U.S. citizens can simply FAX these letters to the various U.S. agencies’ numbers provided.

This affects all of us, so I encourage you to educate yourself with the facts. For more information, I’d recommend listening to this eye-opening interview (MP3) with Illustrator Brad Holland, who describes in detail the effect this legislation will have on artists.

The Illustrators’ Partnership of America has plenty more information on the Oprhan Works Act, how it affects you, and what you can do to fight it.

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