::sigh:: S.2913, the Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008, which seeks to limit damages in copyright infringement cases for users exhibiting copyrighted works without permission, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 15, 2008.
Should it come before the full Senate for a vote, apparently Barbara Boxer plans to support it. She seems to feel that those who violate copyright law need to be protected from the rightful owners of "orphan images." I strongly disagree. The advent of the internet makes it too easy to label any work of art - especially visual art, which does not come with a tagline imbedded into it - as an "orphan" work. Orphan works, for those of you who don't know it, are works of art which are protected by copyright but not directly labelled with the copyright holder's name. So if I post an image here and someone else likes it and puts it on their blog - without any attribution (label stating I own it), as is usually the case when we blog things - and someone else decides they want to use that image in their advertising or on their commercial website or to glue onto a box they will then varnish and sell at a craft fair, the Orphan Works Act will give them the right to do that without allowing me any recourse.
Now, I don't know about you, but the way I was raised, the way things were when I grew up, if you didn't have permission to use something that did not belong to you, it was called stealing. If you wanted to use someone's words or art or music, you had to have permission first. And if you couldn't find them to ask permission, well then, tough freaking noogies. That was the way the cookie crumbled, and it was time to find something else to use it in its place. If you chose to use it anyway, and you got busted for it, you got in trouble. You had to pay for what you took without permission. But we all knew that taking something without permission was wrong and unacceptable, and that the person to whom it belonged had all the power, if you took it and they found out about it.
With this new act, if someone wants to use something that belongs to someone else, they can pretty much just take it. Oh, it's been dressed up so that they have to at least show that they "tried" to find out who it belonged to, but let's face it: any image which is floating around the internet and is not a famous one (and in point of fact, even some of those) is easy pickin's for this sort of "I tried to find out who it belonged to, but there was no name assigned to it, and when I did a google search of "guy with horse", nothing matched it, so I figured it was okay to use.
The thing that pisses me off most about this is that the people it protects are the people who know damned good and well that what they're doing isn't right but choose to do it anyway. The web designers who apparently think that spending 20 cents for an image off of a microstock photography site is too expensive, so they go to Flickr or Photobucket or Deviantart and steal it from there. Companies who are trying to grab as much as they can for as little as possible and don't care that they're stealing a little guy's images, because they have the law team and time he doesn't and can squash his requests to be paid for what they took. I don't like people who think the rules of common decency don't apply to them, and this law just gives those people a free ride to stomp all over the people whose hard work and creativity they are stealing with their pointy little fuck you boots.
I'm not good with that. So since this damned thing has moved another step closer to becoming law, I would truly appreciate it if you wrote your Senators and Representative and told them you don't approve of this measure. If you don't want to write your own letter, you can send a pretty well-written form letter from this site. What's important is just letting your congressperson know you're one of the people who does not want this form of stealing made into law.
Thanks very much,
- 2005 Katie Doyle; all rights reserved
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