ASMP, Editorial Photographers, National Press Photographers Association and other photographer friendly organizations are mounting a spirited campaign against proposed amendments to the current Copyright laws in the US.
“The U.S. Copyright Office issued its report on Orphan Works only a couple of weeks ago. The end of that report contained proposed language for an amendment to the Copyright Act. That proposal is now being fast-tracked in Washington with a good chance of passage before the end of this Session. In my opinion, if that language is enacted in its current form, it will be the worst thing that has happened to independent photographers and other independent visual artists since Work Made for Hire contracts.”
Orphan Works are those copyrighted material (images for instance) whose owners may not be easily located. According to this report, if the owner of the copyright isn’t located within a reasonable amount of time and effort, the previously copyrighted objects is “released” to whoever has possession of the said object(s) for their use without fair compensation to the creator of the artwork.
What, is that right? Yep, that’s what the amendment is proposing. And it is being fast-tracked through Congress RIGHT NOW.
The ASMP site puts this more succinctly by saying this:
“Orphan works are basically works whose copyright owners cannot be located. The term ”Orphan Works“ is really a dangerously misleading phrase. It makes it sound as if it includes only a few works that are not valued enough by their creators to warrant taking care of them. That may be true for owners of many kinds of copyrights. However, the reality is that for independent photographers and illustrators, the majority of your published photographs may well become Orphan Works. The reason for that is that, unlike just about every other category of copyrighted works, photographs and illustrations are typically published without any copyright notice or credit to the photographer or illustrator. The one exception to that has traditionally been editorial uses, but even there the trend seems to be away from providing credit lines. As more and more photographs are published on the Internet, credits become even rarer. Worse, even if you registered your photographs at the Copyright Office, there is no mechanism for identifying you or your photograph or for locating you through those records, if the user does not know your name.”
Here is what you can do – 1) write to your representatives (the ASMP site has a boiler plate letter that you can massage with your own words), 2) when you create a work of art (whatever it may be) submit a copy of it to the U.S. Copyright office, 3) if you are working with publications insist that your name appear in the credit line (make this part of your contract with them, 4) be vigilant about your images and where and how they are used (I had one Indian magazine use one of my images without my knowledge and then confessed to doing so after I pointed it out to them), 5) if you find transgressors, don’t sit around waiting for them to come to you, send them a letter with an invoice attached and 6) barring all of the above hire an attorney who will work with you.
If you won’t fight for your rights, no one else will either. Step up folks!