This Newsletter from Robert Genn is timely. Copyright Awareness Week
is NEXT week..... You can talk about the up side (easier for art
educators to use works without permission) and down side of this
Orphan Works issue (loss of rights of the copyright holder). Robert's
Newsletters come twice a week (Tuesday and Friday)... sometimes they
are just important enough to share with everyone. You will enjoy
receiving them yourself.
This is copyrighted and can not be published elsewhere (without
Robert's permission). I got permission to share here. Painters Key web
site is the one with all of the GREAT art quotes.
March 3, 2006
Dear Art Educators (was Dear Judy),
There's a big dust-up coming to the US Congress. It involves
moving the goalpost on copyrighted works of art. It's about
"orphan works." These are works of art where no one seems to
claim copyright--or where the original author is hard to find.
This new legislation, if passed, will isolate the USA from the
Berne Convention and make an impact on the livelihood of many
creative people worldwide, particularly photographers and
It's also possible to see the point of view of folks on the
other side. Right now it's difficult for historians and
scholars to get clearance for a lot of things. Researchers
spend hours on the telephone and the Internet trying to get
permission from dead and invisible creators who sometimes don't
care. The American Historical Association, for example,
explains that orphan works "hamper the historian's ability to
work with the raw materials of history."
For those artists who want to get paid for their
stuff--particularly their old stuff--it's going to take a lot
of slogging to go through, and put a copyright bug on,
everything they've done.
If legislation goes ahead, it looks to me as if copyright and
owner information must now be embedded in all future art.
Digital cameras will have to feature a signature option for
every photo--no matter how zoomed or cropped. Users would then
have no choice but to track down and ask permission. On the
other hand, unsigned or un-bugged material would be deemed fair
game for reproduction or other uses. It would certainly be a
boon for educators. With the current trend toward unbridled
sharing within our global village, this could mean the end of
It's a fact of life for artists that most infringements are too
expensive to litigate anyway. Also, there's a grey area between
benign use and outright commercial exploitation. It's been my
experience that painters are often respected in this
matter--perhaps it's the tradition of the signature in the
lower right. For architects, photographers, illustrators and
graphic artists, it's another kettle of fish. Some of them are
now looking for other jobs. I've asked Andrew to put up a brief
guide to further opinion and reportage--as well as a directory
where we can let lawmakers know how we feel. It's all at the
top of the current clickback. See URL below.
PS: "This legislation would undermine our ability to control
our rights and make a living from the work that we produce."
(Cynthia Turner, medical illustrator)
Esoterica: There were several surprises in our recent, somewhat
successful, fight with the Chinese pirate-art website
Arch-World. One was how readily they complied with our
individual requests to remove our art from their site. Another
was that while we were able to get more than 800 artists
removed, a few artists reported that they "didn't care" if the
Chinese made a few bucks from their images. "I've already been
paid for those paintings. I got what I wanted," said one guy.
The "don't care" attitude extended to some museums and art
galleries, too. There are a few Western orphans wandering
around in China.
Gift idea: Twice a week, your creative friends won't feel
orphaned when you give them the gift of the twice weekly
letter. For current subscribers who send us five or more we've
been mailing a free copy of The Painter's Keys. No strings,
just a thank-you. We make it easy. We even send out a letter to
let them know the gift is from you.