More Copyright Issues… Orphan Works Bill

Here we go… again.  I’d much rather be focused on creating and sharing photo’s than having to deal with these types of issues, but this one is huge, really big and it just doesn’t seem to be going away, in fact it just could get significantly worse.
First, the issue, then I’ll rant a bit afterward.

Right now before Congress is a really stupid and pointless bill,  The Orphan Works Act of 2008, as written in H.R.5889 and S.2913.  What this piece of legislation does is essentially say that if someone finds a creative work in the public space that they want to use for whatever reason, they can if they only do some minor searches for the author. Worse, it completely ignores some simple measures that we use to maintain creative control. Inside the digital file of my pictures is metadata that stores a lot of information. Included is very specific camera information, down to the serial number. But more importantly, it also carries copyright data. If you use an exif viewer to read the metadata of my pictures, you’ll see a line that says copyright and followed by my name and other pertinent data. This stupid bill says that doesn’t matter! Now that’s insanity!

Ok so what that means to you.  Say you have a digital camera and take some pictures that you post on a site to share with friends and you put a caption on it that says something like “my vacation in the Grand Canyon.”   Now, if this bill passes, someone can go out to and do a search for “Grand Canyon pictures” to find a picture to sell something.  They find a ton of pictures out there that the search engine pulls up.   They see yours.  They download it.  They make into an ad.  And you don’t get anything, not even an honorable mention.  Why?  Because the search engine pulled it off your photo sharing site and made it an “Orphan.”

Or to ad insult to injury, let’s say your picture of your pet animal is used to promote eating that animal and you are a vegetarian. And so forth and so on.

Seems ridiculous, and you might even think I’m overstating the simplicity of it, but the legal councils for the worlds largest creative organizations have read the bill and they are the ones that say this simple scenario will happen. In fact, they say companies will spring up overnight to do just that.  Search and find any creative content on the web and then sell it.

Please follow this link and send a letter to Congress to stop it.  After all, do you want your pictures, your music, your thoughts, your words, your art to be used by whoever whenever?

The problem seems to be that there hasn’t been a real review of the impact of technology on creative works at it’s highest levels. Rather than take a whole systems review and then make some real legislation happen, we have been working it issue by issue. File sharing, downloading, copying, scanning… all these technological enhancements have really happened much faster than the can be dealt with piecemeal. Technology is changing and increasing exponentially but the affects of technology will always be reviewed after it’s change. And many times with unintended consequences. Consequently, we find ourselves in these situations.

Muscians faced this when Napster was alive. Now we visual artists face it. Painters already face it from China where several cities exist where their works are copied and sold. Any new art is quickly photographed, and then painted by thousands of “artists” then sold as “original copies.”

I don’t know where all this will end up. I do know from now on I’ll be putting a watermark on all my images, directly across the face of the picture. It’s about the only thing left other than not posting them at all. I’ll more than likely attempt to remove, watermark and repost many of the images here. What a pain… it takes the joy out of it for me.




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