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Will Your Images, Photos, Artistic, & Other Copyrighted Work Become Public Property?

by Mary Emma Allen on May 13th, 2008


If a proposed law, H.R. 5889, The Orphan Works Bill of 2008 passes the U.S. House of Representatives or  S. 2913, The Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008, passes the Senate, your images, photos, artistic work  and authored works could be in danger of becoming public property.  Apparently, the infringers just have to indicate they can’t find or couldn’t contact the owner and will have free use of much written and artistic work.

In a radical departure from existing copyright law and business practice, the U.S. Copyright Office has proposed that Congress grant such infringers freedom to ignore the rights of the author and use the work for any purpose, including commercial usage. In the case of visual art, the word “author” means “artist.”  (From Overview at Illustrators Partnership of America)

The House Bill already has passed the House Judiciary Committee.

For more information on how this affects you, the artist, photographer, painter, designer…small and home business owner, visit the Illustrators Partnership of America web site. 

Another source of explanation of “Orphan Works” and the consequences to authors and artists if one of these bills becomes law is at Public Knowledge.

“Orphan Works” are copyrighted works - books, music, records, films, etc - whose owner cannot be located. (From Public Knowledge)

(c)2008 Mary Emma Allen

Tags: , , , , Illustrators Partnership of America, , legislation, Orphan Works, , , U.S. Copyright Office, ,

POSTED IN: Laws & Regulations, Trends

5 opinions for Will Your Images, Photos, Artistic, & Other Copyrighted Work Become Public Property?

  • Rachel
    May 13, 2008 at 2:28 am

    there’s the opposite point of view of course. If an Orphan works bill is not passed, there’s a whole load of work that no one can ever do anything with, that sits there languishing away because no-one can identify who owns it. Valuable documentary films can be made, they can’t feed the remix culture, they can’t inspire new works. Some of the biggest industries in the country were based on the ability to use works previous works, Disney being a prime example, hip-hop, the biggest and most profitable section of music being another.

    Not being able to use such stuff is a far bigger brake for creativity and innovation than passing this bill.

  • Mary Emma Allen
    May 13, 2008 at 4:44 am

    Thanks, Rachel, for stopping by Home Biz Notes and sharing the opposite point of view to the Orphan works bill. One aspect artists/authors seem to be concerned about is the use of the work they own…will someone make a half-hearted attempt to “find” the owner or contact the owner, then use the work without permission or compensation, yet be protected from copyright infringement.

  • The Opposite View of the Orphan Works Bill with It’s Potential to Affect Quilters and Other Artisans
    May 14, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    […] Recently I wrote about How Will the Orphan Works Bill Affect Ownership of Your Art and Written Work? here at Quilting and Patchwork.  I also mentioned it at my Home Biz Notes blog, Will Your Images, Photos, Artistic and Other Copyrighted Work Become Public Property? […]

  • fraser
    May 14, 2008 at 9:18 pm


    Where is this work that is “languishing away”?

    If it’s out there somewhere, it’s being used, and it has value, and its possible (although not always easy to track down the owner if you want to use someone elses creation)…

    If its not out there, its certainly not your right to exploit it for cash… thats the whole idea behind the Bern Convention.

    To assume that you have the right to exploit any one and everyones creative works just because you want to is ridiculous…. would you argue that just because there is a building that you like you should be able to move in and make a busines in it?

    Or perhaps the millions of acres of “unused” Amazon Jungle should just be orphaned off to anyone who wants some wood?

    No, property is property, whether its physical or intellectual. And just because there is no name attached physically to the property dosn’t mean you can use it without permision

    Passing a Bill to allow the uncontrolled appropriation of Intellectual Property from the weak (individual producers) to the strong (corporations with lawyers) runs contrary to basic human rights, to the reaon e have laws in the fiorst place, and to all established property laws.

    The Orphan works Bill is a massive disgusting Land Grab.

    Larry and Sergei and the Hollywood corporations sponsoring this Bill are Pirates.

    And as we know, “Piracy is a Crime”

  • Yvonne Russell
    May 15, 2008 at 3:07 am

    Interesting to hear different perspectives on this. Thanks to all for your insights… and interesting discussion.

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