Orphan Works : Damage Control

This Orphan Works drama has been a thorn in our sides for quite some time. By all accounts, there is a need for some legislation that addresses the situation that arises when the owner of a copyright protected work cannot be identified and located. It’s just that everything I’ve seen, read, and otherwise researched on the topic–from the perspective of photographers–has found all such previously proposed legislation unsatisfactory. Well hold your horses. A new bill has just been born in the House and the Senate. No one is shouting ‘victory’ by any means–not even close–but the ASMP thinks we’ve done all we can within reason. If you ask me, it’s just called damage control – and they might just be onto something. From their website:

As with any legislation, one could always wish for more favorable terms. Realistically, though, the House bill is about as good as photographers are ever going to get. If the bill is not passed this year, it will return in the next session of Congress, when at least one of the crucial subcommittees will be under different leadership. Based on the track records of the legislators who are in line for leadership, it is almost certain that they will write legislation that is far less friendly to copyright owners than the current leadership.

Read the full ASMP take on this topic here. As you might imagine, there are some vocal opposers. John Harrington is not happy. Nor is The Illustrators Partnership. SAA also miffed, here.

Me? I’m idealistic as hell, but I’m siding with the ASMP on this one. As someone whose got a record of standing up for this stuff, even having gone toe to toe on stage with the nice folks at the Copyright Office who supported earlier (read: really crappy) drafts of the legislation (Pro Photo Summit hosts, are you out there? Any chance of posting the video of that panel? Where is that content hiding?) I never thought I’d say this, but my gut is that the landscape is changing too fast. I think there is also a lot of misinformation out there on this… Suffice it to say, I’m no talking head and I’m certainly no lawyer, but don’t see this getting much better than it is in this draft. It’s sad and it pains me to say it, but I think it might just be true.

Update: if you want the bigger picture to this post, consider reading the handful of comments below – click the ‘continue reading’ link below …
and spending some additional time reading on this topic elsewhere online. The issue is very charged, as you will see. I’m not advocating the communication style of some of these commenters, but instead trying to highlight the complexity, the level of seriousness, and the sense of urgency for everyone involved.

Update #2: As there is a lot of rhetoric out there about the opposition positions on the House version of the bill, the ASMP has issued an FAQ page to address their pro position reasoning, as well as some podcasts. I encourage you to read up about all this stuff — both pro and con positions – in order to make the most informed decision possible. Links to both sides of this argument appear in this post and in the comments, and can also be found with a quick search. Check em out.

Update #3: Some new posts from the ASMP aimed to answer some questions:
FAQ — http://www.asmp.org/news/spec2008/FAQ_for_OW.php
Podcasts — http://www.asmp.org/audio/index.php
Orphan Works updates — http://www.asmp.org/news/spec2008/orphan_update.php

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