Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Orphaned Works Madness?

Recently, a student in my MFA program posted a link to our listserve concerning "Orphaned Works" legislation that's allegedly before Congress. The article she linked to was at Animation World Magazine, called "Mind Your Business: You Will Lose All The Rights to Your Own Art" by Mark Simon. I clicked over and read it, but quickly felt my suspicions rising...

The stuff he was claiming was about to happen was so absurd I couldn't imagine anyone reasonably thinking such legislation could become law. There's also the fact that he's so intent on scaring people, never states basic information like the Bill # and uses CAPS SO THAT YOU KNOW HE'S SERIOUS! I didn't get through the whole thing, but just thought it was strange. Totally frightening if it was true, but...

Fortunately, another student mentioned a follow up post, "Six Misconceptions About Orphaned Works", by Meredith L. Patterson on Radio Free Meredith. Now this one made some sense. She's a lucid writer that seems to stick to the details more than the hyperbole. I found it interesting, and reasonably comforting, actually. (Like, for example, this legislation doesn't really seem to be before Congress at the moment, much less in imminent danger of passing.) Clearly, this copyright stuff is an issue that artists have to be concerned about, but not in the frantic way that Mr. Simon was encouraging.

Anyway, poking through these articles and the comments managed to swallow an hour or so of my time. Just thought I'd share that with you...

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Blogger Mark Lavallee said...

Heh, good read, thanks for the post.

I was a professional photographer for several years when I was younger (haha I'm only 28); I managed a photo studio and have had several of my "personal" photos published in state and national publications. My dad has stuff published all the time, literally.

I got my first camera, a Nikon FM (which would later become my main studio camera) when I was 15. My dad had discarded it to me for the "New Canon EOS Elan". I started going to the race track and taking picture of drag cars. I'd sell them for $1 each to the drivers and 8x10's were $10. I would simply write in ink "Copyright {my name}" on the back of them.

The guys would take them to Wal-Mart and try to have 8x10s made off the 4x6 for the everyday low price of $5.77; they would refuse thanks to my trust copyright. ;)

A couple of years later one of the ladies that worked in that photo lab told me she still had people trying to enlarge my pics. By that point I didn't care so I wrote them an official letter (I even had it notorized) saying they coud enlarge any picture of a "race car" with my copyright on it.

After that, for quick pics I started putting dates on my copyrights. So that after 2 years or so they could do whatever with it. I figured it was just easier if people really wanted it.

It's an interesting thing though, when it comes to photography it doesn't matter who's film, camera or studio you're using, the rights belong to whoever snapped the picture.

In the studio my contract exluded me from having any rights to any pictures. ;) The company owned all them.

A new question with this topic is old computer programs, particularly video games. For example, I own a video game from a company called Spectrum-Holobyte, which became Micro-Prose; who went under. The rights were bought by Interplay, and now interplay has gone out of business and no one bought their rights.

So who owns the rights to that game I have? Can I distribute it to my friends now?

It's a grey area, but sooner or later it will have to be defined. Probably by lawsuits. {Sigh}. Lawyers. Can't live with them, can't sue without them. ;)

Sorry this is long.

12:59 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Wow, that was long...

2:18 PM  
Blogger Meghan said...


Seriously though. This sounds like bunk. I think this guy is a bit paranoid. Of course we have to be careful with our work (especially if we display it on the Internet) but I doubt everyone everywhere will lose the right to their works anytime soon.

3:31 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Yeah. I've not read any of his other articles. Perhaps he likes to get heated about stuff... Thing is, he's got a lot of people talking about it - even if most of them are rolling their eyes.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Mark Lavallee said...

Lots of people talked about Ted Bundy too. ;)

11:58 PM  

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