Thursday, July 13, 2006

Life's A Beach?

Sunny, hot, humid, about 85F. I spent the better part of my day shooting a job that's partly challenging but largely boring. A lot of driving, window open with the air conditioning on, a lot of getting in and out, unbuckling and rebuckling my safety belt. Record keeping, a log for each frame. Wish I'd chucked it all and gone to the beach with the kids (not professional!).

Also... I'm kind of tired today. Spent a couple of hours last night faxing letters to my congressman as well as members of the House Judiciary Committee, who are considering an amendment to the Copyright Act which would eliminate penalties for infringers of "Orphaned Works." What's an Orphaned Work? Glad you asked.

In a highly simplified scenario: let's say you notice the image to the right, footprints in the sand, and you think it would make a great illustration for your ad or a poster or web site. You click on it and drag it to your computer's desktop or save it to your hard drive, intending to use the image. Maybe you'd like to ask permission but you don't know who the creator/copyright-holder is (pretend I hadn't made it obvious), and let's suppose that it's been a while since you snagged the image and can't remember which web site you stole it from. What should you do?

Under the current law, you should delete it and find an image you can license properly for your intended use. Under the Orphaned Works provision you could do a google (yahoo!, MSN, whatever) search for an image of footprints in the sand and, assuming the image you stole isn't there in the search results. You are therefore immune from prosecution under copyright law, having made a good faith effort to find the rightsholder, and you publish the image.

If I see it and contact you about it, you can negotiate a fee for the use with me, and maybe you'll pay me... but you won't be subject to statutory damages (could be as much as $150,000 per infringement). In other words, if a work is found to be "orphaned," it's origin unknown to the user, then it's fair game. Again, that's a highly simplified example but the gist of it is correct.

If you're a photographer, illustrator, writer, textile designer, or other visual or recording artist, please fax a letter to your congressman as well as members of the committee and let them know that you oppose the "Orphaned Works" legislation that they're now considering. And don't take your sweet time about it either, time is running out as it's on the House floor NOW.

Here's a couple of web resources to help you.....

If you don't know your local Representative’s name, visit and enter your state and zip code.

Once you know who your Representative is, go to to find the Representative’s home page using the alphabetic list. The home page will have a “contact” link for fax numbers and other info.

Names & fax numbers of key Representatives (again, not Senators) are here

ASMP has an automated tool to make this as easy as possible and you'll find it here

Let's get out there and defeat this bill. You could just chuck it all and go to the beach, but that's not professional!


Anonymous Don Eddy said...

I like the footprints in the sand. If you turn the photo upside down, they're like the raised, surviving ice footprints on a sidewalk after the sun came out and melted the surrounding snow, a shot I'd made in Ft. Collins, Colorado. They're like little plateaus.

Some of Wynn Bullock's (Monterey, CA) photos are presented upside down to do a similar visual turn-about. Also negative prints. Always enjoyable to contemplate.

Nice stories Joe.

9:12 AM  

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