Friday, September 19, 2008

Don't get Orphan Works apathy

It's time again to take five minutes and fill out an e-mail petition to your senators and representative. Simply enter your name and address and the program will generate and send the e-mails to the correct legislators.

The NPPA and various other creative arts groups request the participation of everyone who has ever earned any income via copyright (or plans to do so). Senate bill 2913 and House of Representatives bill 5889 are being introduced for a vote this session.

This means your attention and letters are needed now since Congress didn't listen in April.

We previously discussed this so-called "Orphan Works" legislation on 16 March 2006 and again on 21 Nov. 2006. Furthermore, plan on jumping through these same hoops for the remainder of your career.

While some people want us to believe a kindly, grey-haired librarian wants to show children prints from the 1920s, don't believe them. Librarians don't have the money needed. This legislation is being pushed by people with deep pockets to buy lots of lobbyists and push this through during each session.

I'm certain Leahy didn't want his name to appear on this Senate bill. Consequently, he named the bill after the late Shawn Bentley, a lobbyist and Time Warner vice president of intellectual property and global public policy.

When did Time Warner start caring about librarians' ability to use photos commercially?

In short, it's reasonable to believe telecom giants are trying to get control of the images they're holding on their servers and moving through their routers. Furthermore, they would love to use them payment-free for advertising purposes and let you get sued. Additionally, this latest legislation shifts the burden of proof of income from the infringer to the photographer.

You don't need to look deep to find the reason this will be a recurring nightmare for visual artists and PJs worldwide. Simply look at the sponsors of the bills (and memorize them for election day).

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA)
Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC)
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)

I'm certain these fine gentlemen of Congress have interesting cooperation on other Washington matters. Please feel free to put your journalistic skills to the test and ferret out which dots might connect.

The second name on this list tells me much. Search for "Orrin Hatch lobbyist," and you'll learn his son, Scott D. Hatch, is a successful lobbyist for Walker, Martin & Hatch according to SourceWatch (the Center for Media and Democracy). The younger Hatch lobbies for telecom companies.

Also according to SourceWatch, "Jack Martin was 'a veteran' of Senator Orrin Hatch's senate staff..." and Walker retired from Qwest Communications International Inc.

I'm certain the Hatch family might say this is coincidence. It's also a coincidence when SourceWatch reports, "in 2002, the firm reported a lobbying income of $930,000, with most of the fees 'paid by companies and groups that count on' Senator Hatch for support."

This is why I'm saying it'll be an ongoing war until there's no money left to buy votes.

So my gentle PJs, get accustomed to combating these so-called "Orphan Works" bills each spring and fall. They're going to be around for the remainder of your career unless you decide to stop petitioning.

We can't waiver or become apathetic and let our images be stolen for commercial use without a fight.

Enough for now,

UPDATE: 9/19/08
I got the following reply from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

Thank you for contacting me regarding copyright protection. I welcome your thoughts and comments on this issue.

Copyright protection has been central to America's prosperity and job creation. Movies, books, computer software, television, photography and music are among our unique American products and some of our most successful exports. United States industries depending on copyright protection employ nearly 4 million workers and produce over $65 billion of our exports - more than agriculture and automobile manufacturing.

Protecting content in a high-technology age is a new and daunting problem, and copyright protection is an important challenge as the broadband revolution offers even more far-reaching possibilities and opportunities. With new speed and interactivity, the entire store of movies, music, books, television and raw knowledge can be made widely available. I believe copyright protection is a foundation of innovation, and copyright law should work to ultimately protect the best interests of consumers. Intellectual property is the creative core of the information age. I will keep your views in mind should the Senate consider legislation addressing this issue.

I appreciate hearing from you and hope you will not hesitate to keep in touch on any issue of concern to you.

Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator

While it sounds good, the line, "...and copyright law should work to ultimately protect the best interests of consumers," concerns me.

This could be read either way. I'm optimistic and read it to mean consumers have more options because we keep our copyright. Telecom companies may read it to mean they get my copyright to provide my images for free to their customers.

If my work is stolen, I couldn't afford to create new work. If Congress allows this theft to happen, professional images of our combined human experience will effectively end on the day the bill gets signed.

UPDATE: 9/26/08
The Senate reports,
"Sep 26, 2008: This bill passed in the Senate by Unanimous Consent. A record of each representative's position was not kept."
So much for optimism (and hopefully incumbancy).

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