Cyber Corner

Keeping Your Copyright Rights Safe 

By Libby Kyer

Originally appeared in The Botanical Artist – Volume 16, Issue 4

 

This topic has been discussed in this feature before, but with a new Congress about to begin the business of legislating, a reminder of its importance might be helpful. In 2008 the US Congress attempted to address the quagmire in copyright law relating to so-called “orphan works.” With the advent of a digital society, works without accreditation and sometimes even with accreditation are used for financial gain, with no recompense for the artist. The government solution was somewhat Machiavellian, put kindly, and really appeared to protect copyright for no one without additional expense to the artist. This is one of those issues that are vital to the artist, and your computer is an impressive tool for finding facts and following progress. As the new Congress gets ready to take up legislation, here are some websites that can help you make informed decisions. 

  • You can find the text of the bill - H.R. 6052, The Copyright Modernization Act of 2006 – at: thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:H.R.6052. As a resource for the actual words and thoughts that Congress might consider, this is the horse’s mouth. It can alternatively be used if you have severe insomnia, as the arcane method of writing a bill can certainly short-circuit neurons. The bill is currently in limbo, having not been taken up again by the House since late 2008. 
  • To get the report to Congress that summarizes the government activities, go to: www.copyright.gov/docs/regstat031308.html. Well written, it lays out the facts as the government review committee sees them, including “stakeholders” input. 
  • For a compact summary of the issues as well as some reasonable proposals to modify the bill, try the New York Times article by Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig at: www.nytimes.com/2008/05/20/opinion/20lessig.html
  • Go to www.asip-repro.org/ to see what The American Society of Illustrators' Partnership (ASIP) is doing for “reprographic rights.” This is an organization uniting a large number of US illustrators’ associations under an umbrella of common interests, with the goal of participating with international organizations that assist artists in protecting their rights. Their mission is stated, “As copyright holders of published illustrations we unite to protect our copyrights, establish transparent accountability of the reprographic royalty streams earned by American illustrators, and promote the proper licensing of our works.” One of their goals is to gain acceptance by the International Federation of Reproductive Rights Organization (IFRRO) (www.ifrro.org) as an administrating body, which may be another way to support your copyright and reproduction rights. Strength in numbers is always a handy negotiating tool.  

Many unanswered questions concerning the issue of copyright management in the US remain. The situation is very much in flux, and many people and organizations are working on the large and rather complex jigsaw puzzle that combines individual rights and government legislation. For further information, enter “Orphan Art” in your search engine. The most important thing you can do is take part in the debate, help with solutions, and stay informed. And that is where your computer is your best friend.