[drn-discuss] illustrators argue against orphan works proposal

Dave Green dave at davegreen.co.uk
Sun Mar 20 12:21:18 PST 2005

At 10:38 20/03/05 -0800, rufus.pollock at okfn.org wrote:
>Thought this might interest the list for its illustration of one of the
>standard reactions by artists' groups to attempts to amend/reduce
>copyright (in this case the orphan works proposal in the US). We need to
think carefully how to address such concerns and demonstrate that such
proposals, be it CC, term reduction, registration requirements, etc are not

cheers Rufus, in this specific case I imagine concerns like these could be
partly assuaged by pinning down:

a) how hard you look for the legitimate rights-owners (whether there's any
way they could currently profit from the works being one obvious criterion)
b) what the public are allowed to do with the "orphan works" ("commerical"
vs "non-commercial" exploitation etc - Adams seems to imply that one of the
main beneficiaries would be media companies who carelessly happened to have
"lost touch" with creators they owed royalties to...? :)
c) what happens if the true rights-owners are subsequently discovered - is
the orphan status non-revocable?

oh and, not to dismiss the validity of his arguments, but Neal Adams is
best known (to me, anyway) as the creator of Skateman - "considered by many
to be one of the worst comics ever" 

>> Illustrator's Partnership
>> Gentlemen,
>> Re: Orphaned Works Legislation.
>> Let us suppose you wish to conspire with me to rip off a body of  
>>work, normally protected by the copyright law, into the Orphaned  
>>Works definition. Let us suppose this work was created by an artist  
>>who is in his declining years and whose family overlooks him and his  
>>rights with a casualness your children may show to you as you grow  
>> Our aging artist does not pour over the Internet daily. In fact, the  
>>Internet is not a tool of his generation. He rarely goes to  
>>bookstores, though he reads the newspaper daily, watches TV and  
>>listens to radio and even plays golf, goes to movies and makes love  
>>to the widow down the block.
>> You and I wish to take advantage of the "old" popularity of his  
>>work. In a renaissance of exploitation of his work we do not wish to  
>>dig up this "old man" and share with him, but simply, we wish to  
>>profit by his work.
>> So first we explore the Internet. We produce signature tags or  
>>"tubes" or jpegs or gifs. We produce prints and publications to sell  
>>on the Internet. Then we do a classy book and include his work  
>>without featuring his name and his life's body of work will become  
>>ours. Good plan? The question we should be asking is why do we have  
>>copyright protection in our law? Or more importantly, if I own it,  
>>why do you take my ownership away? Is it because I'm older than you  
>>and because that is so, I don't deserve "rights" like you?
>> Why not come into my house when I'm out and give away my furniture  
>>or take it yourself? Gentlemen, an artist has only this, his work,  
>>and the rights to his work. He has nothing else.
>> I fought for the rights of Superman's creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe  
>>Schuster. Others made millions while Superman's creators lived in  
>>near poverty. Jerry was a clerk and Joe was a legally blind man who  
>>lived in his brother's apartment, slept on a cot and worked as a  
>>messenger. I met and fought for their small remaining rights when  
>>they both turned only 60 years old. Not "old" by any definition.
>> The battle took months and the settlement was meager, but it let the  
>>men live the remaining years of their lives with dignity. You know  
>>what they cared about most? They cared about having their names, once  
>>again, associated with their character, Superman! Why? Because it was  
>>what they were as people. They were their work.
>> Why do we have copyright law? Because we wish to protect people and  
>>their creations, even if they are "hard to locate." Please maintain  
>>copyright protection and don't contribute to rotting us from the  
>> Sincerely,
>> Neal Adams

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