Monday, July 20, 2015

Guys, I don't care what country you live in. If you depend on copyright, you need to read this.

At the risk of sounding seriously dramatic: The Copyright Act is under threat.

Big internet players are lobbying to change the law in ways that is not beneficial to the copyright holder.

First, I'm linking to Richmond Illustration Inc because that post explains all this much better than I can, but in case you're still wondering if you should bother to click through, let me present you with a little excerpt from the above mentioned site as a TL:DR:

• How Orphan Works will Impact Artists
Brad Holland in “The Return of Orphan Works: The Next Great Copyright Act” states:
“The Next Great Copyright Act” would replace all existing copyright law.
1. It would void our Constitutional right to the exclusive control of our work.
2. It would “privilege” the public’s right to use our work.
3. It would “pressure” you to register your life’s work with commercial registries.
4. It would “orphan” unregistered work.
5. It would make orphaned work available for commercial infringement by “good faith” infringers.

6. It would allow others to alter your work and copyright those “derivative works” in their own names.

7. It would affect all visual art: drawings, paintings, sketches, photos, etc.; past, present and future; published and unpublished; domestic and foreign.
Don't relax just yet, if you read here and here, you'll see it they're not limiting this to visual art. This extends to all copyright. 
In other words, this is a BIG DEAL, and it could directly affect us all if the new act goes through. As someone who already had a taste of almost losing my income to third parties using my work without my permission, I don't want to see this becoming legal in its current form. 
So what can we do? 
The Copyright Office is trying to figure out the best way to present a law that protects copyright holders while helping out people trying to do research. 
As such, they have put out a public call for comments on the law, and will use those comments when drafting a proposal for congress. 
So if you want to help them not propose what's currently on the table, please submit a letter here. 

Include the following in your letter: 
– It's important that you make your letter personal and truthful.
– Keep it professional and respectful.
– Explain that you're an artist and have been one for x number of years.
– Briefly list your educational background, publications, awards etc.
– Indicate the field(s) you work in.
– Explain clearly and forcefully that for you, copyright law is not an abstract legal issue, but the basis on which your business rests.
– Our copyrights are the products we license.
– This means that infringing our work is no different than stealing our money.
– It's important to our businesses that we remain able to determine voluntarily how and by whom our work is used.
– Stress that your work does NOT lose its value upon publication.
– Instead, everything you create becomes part of your business inventory.
– In the digital era, inventory is more valuable to artists than ever before.

If you are NOT a professional artist:
– Define your specific interest in copyright, and give a few relevant details.
– You might want to stress that it's important to you that you determine how and by whom your work is used.
–You might wish to state that even if you are a hobbyist, you would not welcome someone else monetizing your work for their own profit without your knowledge or consent.
A good example of a letter (albeit by a visual artist) can be found here

If you're still wondering about submitting, think about it this way: 

My letter took me about 30 minutes to draft. 
You have nothing to lose by writing and submitting one too. 
There are people who stand to gain HUGE profits from our copyrighted work if the current form of the New Copyright Act goes through, be it now or in the future: and it won't be you.


  1. That is just crazy.
    I can put together a letter.

  2. Yeah, like Amazon and Google. I'm visualizing author royalties disappearing down the toilet. I'm going to check with the Author's Guild to see what they're doing in this matter.

  3. I think it's only talking about orphan works. That isn't a problem for us. Likely if you type in every author's name, the #1 result is their home web site with plenty of contact links. Anyone trying to claim use of orphaned material has to prove they made good faith attempts to contact the copyright holder and failed. I just don't see that happening to authors because we are so easy to find and contact.

  4. Could be I'm paranoid, but I just see this going much worst than that. What they're talking about is putting people into commercially run lists "so that things don't become orphaned" which then opens up the chance of purposefully orphaning works that aren't registered. We'd have to pay possibly exorbitant sums to be put in those lists. Because that's the thing about laws. Yes, we have a good idea here (I have nothing against orphan control per se.) but I think the current form of the law being proposed is wide open to exploitation.

  5. Wow. So few artists of any type of media are making any money. I don't understand the purpose of the change.

    Susan Says

  6. Thank you so much for the heads up, Misha. I will get my letter ready.

  7. That point No 6 looks scary and crazy .... It would allow others to alter your work and copyright those “derivative works” in their own names.

  8. Haddock, I know what you mean. After all, what would qualify something as a derivative work? Changing the characters' names?

  9. As a professional photographer as well as an author, I find that law change frightening.

  10. I don't know as much about the copyright law as I should, but I do know that the change sounds crazy. Doing research could be easier, but there has to be a different way.

  11. I don't know as much about the copyright law as I should, but I do know that the change sounds crazy. Doing research could be easier, but there has to be a different way.


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