Orphan Works Hysteria
Let’s start with the facts.
The U.S. Copyright Office is considering some changes that would apply to Orphan Works — works of art that have proven impossible to identify the proper ownership of. They are requesting input from creators of copyrighted work.
You can read a proposal for changes in this public document provided by the U.S. Copyright Office: Orphan Works and Mass Digitization. And I strongly encourage you to read it — if not entirely, try to get through the executive summary at least.
There is no legislation currently on the floors of either the House or the Senate. I’ve seen that misinformation spread on a Facebook group for webcartoonists. It just isn’t true. If it were, you’d be writing letters to your congressperson — not the Copyright Office.
And it’s not going to kill webcomics. I saw that one floating around, too. Sheesh.
Sounding the alarm
Much of the panic in comics circles seems to have spread from Tom Richmond’s blog. Tom’s the president of the National Cartoonists Society. I’ve met him, and he’s a good man with a passion for creator’s rights. He makes extensive use of a blog post by Brad Holland, and Mr. Holland is reading something into that Orphan Works proposal that I simply can’t see.
So, get down off the ledge, and let’s examine what’s going on, point by point.