A blog about scientific and medical visualization and all that’s involved.

Copyright and the Orphan Works Bill

Posted by Janet on May 10, 2008

I have not yet talked about the business aspect of an illustrator, but perhaps I should, seeing how it is actually a huge part of what we do behind the scene. We all enjoy the drawing part a little too much, and sometimes that’s all we want to do. But when this is what you do for a living, you must learn how to play by the rules.

The current copyright law states that a work is yours from the moment you create it. It sounds crazy, because it means that you don’t have to do anything other than creating something for the work to be “protected” under copyright law. It’s a little bit easier to reinforce your rights by putting a copyright symbol and a date next to your signature, and you can enforce your rights by actually registering the work, but the bottom line is, if you make it, it’s yours. So a lot of times when the illustrator is making a living, he/she is not selling the actual work, but the right to use a piece of work under specific conditions.

Now, the Orphan Works Act of 2008 wants to take away that right by declaring any work an “orphan” if the creator or copyright owner cannot be found. It will allow anyone to use your work without permission or payment as long as they have done a “search” and are unable to find the creator or copyright owner. In other words, it devalues our works and this is bad. Very bad. Here is a YouTube version of Mark Simon’s interview with Brad Holland of the Illustrator’s Partnership about the Orphan Works bill and how it affects illustrators.

Additional resources:
-A full version of the interview can be downloaded here.
Orphan Works resource page from the Illustrators’ Partnership website.
Legislative Action Center.


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