Sorry: this is just too annoying: Ted Feder, president of the Artist Rights Society (who sits at the apex of proprietary 'tude) talking through Frank Stella in The Art Newspaper's recent misleading article about orphan works.
First of all, there are so many kinds of artists working in so many different sectors of the art industry, (gallery artist, commercial photographer, documentary film maker, illustrator, etc.), and this proposed legislation would have a widely varying impact on each sector. Their economic models vary that much (think art gallery versus commercial licensing). The umbrella term "artist" doesn't function at all in the article except as a gross oversimplification. Stella, acting as a mouthpiece for Feder, starts out on the wrong foot by glibly and erroneously re-defining orphan works:
The term "orphan work" is used to describe situations in which an infringer of copyright decides that he cannot locate the copyright holder -- usually the artist in the case of paintings and drawings.
Here is a more accurate description of what the term "orphan work" is used to describe (via Public Knowledge):
"Orphan Works" are copyrighted works-- books, music, records, films, etc -- whose owner cannot be located. Works can become "orphaned" for a number of reasons: the owner did not register the work, the owner sold rights in the work and did not register the transfer, the owner died and his heirs cannot be found ...the list goes on. Very often, orphan works become obscure no matter how valuable the material contained in them may be. No future creator is willing to use the orphan work for fear that he/she will have to pay a huge amount of money in damages if the owner emerges.
An understanding of the magnitude of the Orphan Works problem can be gained by reviewing the following studies and comments.
(See also NEWSgrist's del.icio.us links on orphan works.)
Stella goes on and on about "the infringers", these shadowy characters who apparently lurk on the internet, and then winds it up with this mythic sob-story:
Visual artists usually work alone. They receive no salaries, do their own marketing and have no administrative support. In short, it is a tough life. It is deeply troubling that government should be considering taking away their principal means of making ends meet -- their copyrights.
I'd be willing to wager that Frank Stella has never made a red cent from copyright -- copyright comes out of and is most appropriate to the publishing industry; it's about mass production. Last I checked, the gallery system/art world functions through precisely the opposite model of production.
Whatever position you may decide to take in this endless orphan works legislation row, this particular article should not serve as your measure. Rather, read Larry Lessig, who is very much against the current proposed legislation and explains why, while offering a few solutions in his recent New York Times Op-Ed piece; and please read the various articles published on the Public Knowledge site, where there is has been a concerted effort to support copyright reform in this area.
Here's a place to begin (via PK):
In the end, it's irresponsible to muddy the waters and feed into ignorance and misplaced paranoia the way The Art Newspaper article does. Both Stella and Feder can do better (and must do better).
For more info:
via The Electronic Frontier Foundation), May 16, 2008:
Gigi Sohn of Public Knowledge responds to Lessig's Op-Ed:
Here's a blast from the recent past (2005), via Columbia's [art+tech] list:
(For up-to-date CAA comments to the Copyright Office click here: http://www.collegeart.org/publications/orphan-works.html)
Thu Mar 3 21:18:32 EST 2005
- Previous message: [art+tech] Fwd: ACM Multimedia 2005 Interactive Art Program
- Next message: [art+tech] Fwd: ITP Summer '05 Classes/Including Intro. to Physical Computing
- Messages sorted by: [ date ] [ thread ] [ subject ] [ author ]
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: no-reply32 at collegeart.org <no-reply32 at collegeart.org>
Date: Thu, 3 Mar 2005 19:00:40 -0500
Subject: CAA Copyright Initiative--Action Alert!
Dear CAA Member,
As you may know, the U.S. Copyright Office is soliciting the public
for formal comments on the problem of "orphan" works. The College Art
Association has joined with the Association of Research Libraries and
a number of other groups to develop a joint filing. If successful,
this initiative may make a significant difference to artists,
scholars, and others who use copyrighted images and texts in their
We have moved forward with this task quickly, as it has a very short
deadline--March 14. For art historians and artists, the problem is
huge. In order to make our case strongly to the Copyright Office, we
need lots of anecdotes about specific instances where a scholar or
artist has had difficulty using copyrighted material where the
copyright holder can't be traced.
CAA has posted a webpage on our website, describing the initiative and
asking for personal anecdotes from scholars and artists. The webpage
includes an easy web submission form, where you can insert your
anecdotes as a set of answers to some simple questions.
There is a link to the submission form, or you can go straight to that form:
I urge you all to visit the webpage, and if you have any anecdotes,
please fill in the form. And please send the link to as many people as
you can think of.
Director of Publications
College Art Association