Monday, May 12, 2008

Orphan Works Bill - author's opinion

I'm getting emails urging me o "tOke action"The changes in the copyright laws proposed under the new "Orphan

Works" bill have been released and it will affect your creative career!

Write your Reps and Senators.

Refer to Bill H.R. 5889 when writing a House Rep.

Refer to Bill S. 2913 when writing a Senator.

Same Orphan Works bill, different #'s for Senate and House.

A colleague writes:

"If this is a hoax I want to know, if not-I want to do something.

I just received the email (below my signature) and wondered if anyone else has heard of this. (I am usually the last person to find out stuff or hear gossip.) If this is something that has been discussed, junk the email. If this is new to the rest of you, please check it out and send it on to as many artists and writers and creative people as you possibly can.

It is very disturbing to think that our hard work could be used and claimed by others if this goes through."

BUT:  I'm on the other side of this one: to me these "rights" are Wrong! I think the opposition to this law is from publishers and other middle-men who want to limit what art is available to that which currently makes money for THEM.  Copyright has been extended to a creation-killing degree.  Under this law, once something is out of print and the author cannot be found, it will go to Public Domain-- as all published material did after set term for most of the history of copyright (which is a small part of the history of creativity).  26 years, 52 years, was long enough!  I've been waiting my whole adult life to do a dramatization of a novel written before I was born and out of print for many years-- and each time I think the copyright will expire, lobbyists extend it!  Now I know I will die before that story is free to be used.   Under this new law, IF the author or heir is living and wants to reclaim the Orphan, s/he may do so -- but otherwise the the next generations of artists (and more importantly, readers) will have access to "orphan" work-- as our parents and grandparents and forebears did.  Lengthly copyright is a phenomenon of OUR  deprived generation! Publishers who would be willing to print on-demand a long out of print work by a dead author, composers who would like to adapt it for a musical or opera, are prevented from doing so now because a commercial enterprise "owns" the rights.  No publisher or adapter of an "orphan" will be able to "claim" another's work: the original author will be credited and acknowledged: s/he simply is not around to collect royalties or give permission for adaptations.  It  breaks the "If our company can't make enough money from this work, we won't let anybody else distribute it-- after all, it would be "competing" with the authors we ARE marketing these days!" attitude.    Otherwise, Disney will "own" the fairy tales and stories they stole from Public Domain forever after.  I'm for "copyleft" and a generous Public Domain for our grandchildren. 

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