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Orphan Works Or, How You May Lose All the Rights to Every Piece of Art You Have Ever Created! Answered

there is an up coming bill in congress that will change copyright laws. saying that if you want to copyright your work you will have to register it and pay a fee for it to private registration companies.
With the tens of millions of photos and pieces of artwork created each year, the bounty for forcing everyone to pay a registration fee would be enormous. We lose our rights and our creations, and someone else makes money at our expense.
This includes every sketch, painting, photo, sculpture, drawing, video, song and every other type of creative endeavor.
All of it is at risk!

go to this link for more information and spread the word:
orphan act



10 years ago

Sorry, but this is bo-o-o-o-gus...

The law says no such thing. The law does protect someone who accidentally infinged on copyright after failing to locate the owner in a "reasonably diligent search in good faith". And the copyright office is of the opinion that for some media, "privately-operated registries [...] would be much more efficient and nimble" to do such search.

Examples given include ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc), and the Authors Registry, organisations which are already fulfilling this same purpose now. For example, the Author's Registry charges a one-time $10 registration fee, plus a 5% commission on all licensing payments it receives for the author.

Here's some more highly relevant commentary from the copyrights office's opinion paper:

"For authors and copyright owners, marking copies of their works with identifying information is likely the most significant step they can take to avoid the work falling into the orphan works category. This is particularly true for works of visual art, like photographs and illustrations, that otherwise do not contain text or other information that a user can rely on to help determine the identity of the copyright owner. Nothing in the Office's recommendation would make such markings mandatory - in the absence of such information, a reasonable search by the user might very well locate the copyright owner."

In other words: put your name on your work, and you'll be fine...


thank you. this is most informative.
the bulletin board i got this from Doctor Steel
is still buzzing about this even after locking down a couple of threads about it.
but the newest is saying the six misconception about the orphan act ( which i got from the EFF) was based on current copyright law not the proposed one.

so on the new thread i posted your reply ( hope it is ok).

thanks. i asked some people at EFF about it and said it was bogus. i was about to delete this topic until i saw your post on it. i should know better than to believe what is on the internet at face value. thank you for clearing this up for me. (boy is my face red now)

No problem. I probably over-reacted a bit. It *is* an important issue, and for some types of media, like photography, this is bound to have more of an impact than others.

But the page you linked to (and quoted from) is overly alarmist, in my opinion. There has been a lot of discussion on this topic, and various interest groups (e.g. photography associations) have provided input. It seems like the democratic process is actually working out a reasonable compromise for a change.

I'd love to hear other opinions on this though - it's not as if I'm an expert in this field either...

(removed and resubmitted due to formatting issue--"preview" isn't working for me right now...)

it's not as if I'm an expert in this field either...

Uh. Yeah.

Let me weigh in, as a professional photographer for ~25 years.

As it stands now, artists (basically anyone) are automatically granted a copyright for everything they create. While this proposed law doesn't change that, it does redefine what copyright means, and essentially guts the copyright enforceability of unregistered works. To quote from one source:

Brad Holland of the Illustrator’s Partnership shares his notes from a recent meeting with General Counsel of the Copyright Office.

Holland: "If a user can’t find a registered work at the Copyright Office, hasn’t the Copyright Office facilitated the creation of an orphaned work?"

Carson: "Copyright owners will have to register their images with private registries."

Holland: "But what if I exercise my exclusive right of copyright and choose not to register?"

Carson: "If you want to go ahead and create an orphan work, be my guest!"

I.E., the US Copyright Office will now consider all "unregistered works" as "orphan works"

Keep in mind that enforcing your copyright has always been up to the copyright holder. 99 times out of 100, the holder doesn't even know that a violation has taken place. Even if you're aware of a violation, trying to pursue it legally is often economically a negative-sum game. Why spend thousands of dollars on legal representation, and years pursuing $800 of lost revenue?

So the advantage has ALWAYS been with the copyright violator. So much more so with digital media.

My work is mostly public relations, much of it for universities, private schools, business. In this type of work, we try to provide the client with just about all the photos--particularly for events, as the photographs become a valuable addition to that institution's image libraries, historically as well as for the more immediate uses.

We take a lot of photos, and it's unusual but I have taken 1200-1400 photos in a single day. The cost for "private registration" would be what, $14000 per day?

I "stamp" my name and copyright info on each image in the EXIF block (of jpeg format.) But for public relations, institutions have to be able to disseminate the work for newspapers, magazines, trade publications, etc. (hence the term "public relations.") That's OK with me, so long as the image used to promote the client.

Since the EXIF data can be removed without altering the image, it's hardly a solution. So, put your name on your work, and you'll be fine... doesn't work well for me. Sure, there are some digital watermark technologies, but with many competing schemas, what constitutes "due diligence" for the prospective violator?

Still, some have inadvertently given the images to other institutions, and the were used in publications in which the original client wasn't mentioned. Staffers do so, generally out of ignorance. Can I hold seminars in copyright law every time a business hires a new employee?

Even instructables has had discussions about stripping the EXIF header from jpeg files--one member complained the EXIF info contained privacy data. And that's true! You CAN include private data which might be used against you.

But that's one example of an image being inadvertently converted to an 'orphaned work" without my knowledge (I have no idea if they decided to strip the data--but the fact that it was considered limits my submitting anything other than basic "how-to" photos.)

Jeez, the instructable forums are FILLED with bugs... This post is now tagged with 1 reply (not three or four), and the incorrect thumbnail--all because I deleted the above comment to correct formatting issues! Why the $#@%# don't they just strip out chars that won't display correctly????

Have you tried the preview comment button? For me, it shows most of the problems that will occur and if I happen to be in Flock at the time, it will not show me a preview if there are unprintables in there. :-)

Yeah, I tried but sometimes the preview doesn't work for me. Maybe the length of the msg is a factor? I'm just venting, since I posted and deleted twice before just giving up and leaving it with some errors....

I think the "preview comment" button actually *fails* to display your comment if it has non-ascii characters, such as the "smart" matching quotes, or the fancy apostrophe you get from Autoformat in Word.

Let's see what happens - the following was copied from a Word doc:

“matching quotes”
It’s a test

Yup, that did it. The editor window actually showed the regular "straight" double quotes and apostrophe, but the preview function didn't work, and once I posted it, the quotes got screwed up...

That does help, actually. For now, I guess the work-around is to look for "bad" characters if the preview doesn't function....

As Patrik says below, and what I meant by it will not show me a preview if there are unprintables in there is the same, meaning you have to go through it and weed out the bad :-)


Yeah, I can't get it to come up either..... *sigh*