A Call To Action On Orphan Works

Jul 17, 2006

DURHAM, NC – The NPPA believes it vitally important that all photojournalists write their Congressional representatives regarding H.R. 5439, the Orphan Works Act of 2006 (See “About Orphan Works”). Passage of this poorly conceived bill would undermine licensing and enforcement of our copyrights. Licensing copyrights to our pictures is the foundation for the economics of our profession. NPPA joins other groups representing creators of everything from illustrations to textile designs in urging our members to contact their representatives and other key Congressional leaders.

Called “Orphan Works,” the bill supposedly aims at the issue of copyrighted work for which the author cannot be found, either because of a missing credit line or because the author is impossible to track down. If someone claims that they can’t find you, the bill would allow publication of your photographs without your prior permission, without penalty, and in some cases, without payment at all.

Previous letter writing campaigns by the Coalition on Orphan Works – which includes NPPA as a member – led to some changes and a dialogue with the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property.

Important points to note:

The bill is currently in front of the full House Judiciary Committee. Hence, members of the House Judiciary Committee are the most important representatives to reach right now. A list of Judiciary Committee members can be found here.

If a judiciary committee member represents your district, please begin your letter by stating you are a constituent.

Writing an original letter with specific talking points is preferable to writing a form letter. At a minimum, please write an original first paragraph. (See “Further Information and Sample Letters.”)

Your letter should suggest specific improvements in the bill that would make it less damaging, such as changing the “Limitations on Remedies,” to be less broad. (See “Further Information and Sample Letters.”)

An infringement of your copyright can be far more damaging than depriving you of the license fee you might receive for the infringing use. Unauthorized use of your work – particularly without penalties to pay for enforcement – makes it impossible for you to issue exclusive licenses for your pictures. Exclusivity offers more value to clients, who, in turn, pay more for such licenses.

The Copyright Office, which advocates these changes, has failed to put its collection of registered images online, where users could search for copyright owners. At the very least, such a searchable database should be in place before any orphan works exemption is implemented.

About Orphan Works

Further Information and Sample Letters

Previous NPPA article on Orphan Works