Thursday, March 18, 2010

White House Seeks Artists' Comments to Improve Copyright Protection

New Copyright Czar begins Joint Strategic Plan to Protect Intellectual Property
Victoria Espinel is the first U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), also known as the Copyright Czar. Congress created IPEC by an Act of Congress. Ms. Espinel serves within the Executive Office of the President to coordinate with all the federal agencies that fight the infringement of intellectual property.

Ms. Espinel and her team are specifically tasked with formulating and implementing a Joint Strategic Plan to help protect the ingenuity and creativity of Americans by improving the U.S. Government's protection of the rights of intellectual property owners.

Your input is requested.
The White House is inviting your public input and participation to shape an effective intellectual property enforcement strategy. Please respond with your written submissions regarding the costs to you, your business and the U.S. economy resulting from infringement of your intellectual property rights, both direct and indirect.

This will be a 2-part process.
The first is to gather public recommendations by March 24. IPEC will then gather your input on the formulated plan.

Please be precise.
Include your name, city, state, and what type of artist you are. Explain why copyright is critical to you as a commercial artist, how infringement affects you, and what the U.S. government can do to better protect the rights of American artists. If your submission is about your economic loss due to infringement of your copyrights you must clearly identify the methodology used to calculate your losses or otherwise validate your infringement and enforcement costs.

Your submission will be publicly posted.
For this reason, please do not include in your comments information of a confidential nature, such as sensitive personal information or proprietary information.

Confidential disclosures.
If you have confidential business information that would support your recommendation or that you believe would help the Government formulate an effective enforcement strategy, please let them know by contacting:  

Thomas L. Stoll
Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator
(202) 395-1808

Deadline: Submissions must be received by Wednesday, March 24, 2010, at 5 p.m. EST.
Address: All submissions should be sent electronically via intellectualproperty@omb.eop.gov

Additional Background Reading:
White House Blog
Federal Register Notice Request

7 comments:

Stu said...

This is a very important opportunity for artists and writers. I am sending the following on my most pressing issue. I encourage you to send your own comments, which can be on other relevant topics or a crib of my points. There is no required format, so don't let the fact that you're not a lawyer stop you from making your voice heard.
_____
Re: Group Registration of Published Works

Dear Ms. Espinel:

I am an attorney who has represented approximately 500 professional cartoonists, illustrators, and writers over the last thirteen years. I am also a professional cartoonist with over 1,500 published cartoons. I request a simplification of the copyright registration process for groups of published works.

My clients and I create a stream of cartoons, illustrations and stories that are sent out to many different publishers. My clients often sell their work for less than $200 per cartoon, and have no idea what date it’s actually published or any other details required in the current copyright forms (title of publication, volume, page number, tear sheets, etc.). We are faced with a time-consuming, costly, and in some cases, practically impossible process for registering our works. Therefore, I request that you:

(1) allow cartoonists, illustrators and writers to group register a year of published works on a form similar to the form used for photographers (Form GR/PPh/CON), and

(2) only require the year of publication if the specific date of publication is not known.

Under the current regulations, many works go unregistered because my clients do not have all of the information necessary to register their published works. Practically speaking, copyrights must be registered in order for the government to protect them. So, my recommendations are a natural fit for your mandate.

I am available for any further questions or assistance.

Sincerely,

/s/ Stu Rees, Esq.
9974 Scripps Ranch Blvd #288
San Diego, CA 92131
619-297-4001
stu@stus.com

Andrea Mistretta said...

Thank you Mr Rees for your letter publication.
I am a sole proprietor licensing my artworks to the textile and surface design industries. My letter of 3-17-10 to Ms. Espinel:

Dear Ms. Espinel,

Weakening U.S. copyright law will result in increasing misappropriation of creators' proprietary rights and even further loss of income. The moral and economic consequences to our society must be weighed carefully before any changes to copyright. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_rights_(copyright_law)

I am a self-employed sole proprietorship since 1979. My original creations have helped make many millions of dollars for many companies in the chain of commerce in the US and abroad. My work is an integral element in the success of manufacturers, importers, shippers, buyers, packagers, retailers who rely on my unique proprietary style that I conform to marketable subject matter. http://www.mardigrasgraphics.com

My name is Andrea Mistretta and am one of thousands of similar hard working artist/designers/small business owners that influence the artistic stylings of many categories of manufactured goods. We will be negatively impacted if the ability to enforce our copyrights is diminished from its present state established by the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, to which the U.S. is a vital signatory.

The law of nature proves that when small vital systems at the foundation are killed, it eventually kills the larger systems they support. So too will perish the small businesses that make visual, musical and literary arts as livelihoods. If their copyrights go unprotected in the economy system, it will eventually take its toll on larger entities in the chain of commerce.

Protection of the integrity of original art by the nation's image makers is a matter of protecting morality and honor as well as the protecting goods of artistic imagery. Why steal art and imagery? Because one can? It not only takes skills to create imagery, but unique innate talents to make the original goods of imagery. Imagery that sells more goods. Goods sold are commodities. Commodities make the world go around. This is the delicate “Eco-system” - “ECONOMY SYSTEM” (The “ECONOMY SYSTEM” I mentioned in my presentation at the Small Business Administration’s economic impact forum on proposed Orphan Works legislation in August 2008 in New York City.)

http://ipaorphanworks.blogspot.com/2008/08/80808-sba-hearing-on-orphan-works.html

Original creators must protected from lethal results from acts such as H.R. 5889 Orphan Works Act 0f 2008 And S. 2913 Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008. Fighting art theft from predatory entities is exhausting enough kill the small businesses. When society doesn’t protect their treasures from extinction, the loss is final. Then there will be one great homogenized stew of increasing valuelessness and sameness that is unfolding now. How fit will that be for society’s future? Great empires fall to when they step over a “nickel to pick up a dollar”.

The copyright law should be strengthened because digital imagery can stolen from thin air so much more easily than physical property.

I strongly recommend the following people to be advisors to copyright law and proper language for today’s originators and copyright holder past present and future. They have the depth of knowledge and many years practical experience with copyright on both domestic and international levels.

Brad Holland, Illustrators' Partnership of America, Phone: 212.226.3675
brad-holland@rcn.com

Cynthia Turner, Illustrators' Partnership of America, Phone: 850.231.4112
cynthia@cynthiaturner.com

Thank you for hearing my voice,

Andrea Mistretta
http://www.andreamistretta.com

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Stoll,
As a visual artist, graphic designer, writer, and creator of the popular Mama says…® collection products, my livelihood is in the licensing of my artwork to manufacturers. These licenses include paper products, sculptures, porcelains, wood, and textiles.
Today’s copyright laws have been very effective in protecting my intellectual properties. I may register collections of my work so it is affordable to protect. Present remedies offer damages of up to $150,000 per infringing article and have effectively been a deterrent. I have avoided using the legal system and it has only been necessary to issue warnings. Current copyright laws have protected me from:

• Rampant infringement of reproducing and selling prints, cards, misc. products using my paintings.
• Rampant infringement of portions of my work.
• Rampant infringement of my work being manipulated for personal copyright or use.
• Internet fraud-work uploaded from the internet and sold
• Internet fraud-using work freely to promote personal or business websites.
• Vendors selling my artwork with their own personal text devaluing the intent of my art by harming the integrity of its message. (i.e., a written message that associates the artwork with an opinion that is objectionable.)
• The quality of the art being compromised.
• Unknown use.

A licensing contract is a relationship that is often exclusive between the artists and manufacturer. It is vital that both parties are empowered to have complete ownership of a work and the authority to challenge anyone using the artwork without permission. Unauthorized use of personal property should always have consequences.
The Orphaned Works Act introduced last year removes these damages and opens the door to profits for an infringer that may claim artwork as their own with a “reasonable” search. This bill will downgrade my day in court and requires me to spend money openly marketing my ownership so I can be readily “found”.
Since 1978 (when it was enacted), many creators have relied upon the Copyright Act of 1976 and employed business protections guaranteed by Congress. The Licensing Industry depends on these protections. Should I be required to protect each individual work, and derivatives of each work, (of which there would be too many to visualize), I will not be able to protect my personal intellectual property.

Thank you for your serious consideration of the important business principles that afford me the protection of my personal property so that I may continue in my career as a successful licensing artist.

Respectfully,
Kathy Fincher
www.kathyfincher.com

Brenda Pinnick said...

Dear Miss Espinel
I am writing you today in an effort to help you understand the importance of maintaining the current copyright laws, to mine and tens of thousands or even millions of businesses across this country.

As an artist and as a small business, my sole product is my artistic expression, made available to manufacturers’ world wide for use on product through exclusive licensing arrangements. When a manufacturer chooses my art for use, it is because they realize their consumers will respond by making a purchase. This manufacturer depends on copyright protection as much as I do, as we are both in business because of the ability to differentiate ourselves from our competition. Our current laws allow us to continue being a vital part of commerce here in the U.S. and abroad, providing jobs to those who market, distribute, create, and to those whose jobs are supported by industry such as accountants, lawyers, even software engineers. We, artists, are a vital part of the equation…imagine walking through any mall or shopping venue or looking through magazines or even at advertising and seeing no fresh and enticing art to capture your interest or attention. Allowing Orphan Works to go forward will put small businesses who create art, (like me) out of business and it will also greatly damage those businesses who we support through the ongoing creation of new art. It will do likewise to manufacturers who own art, produced in house by staff artists. If no one can protect the ownership of art in a realistic and affordable way, no one will continue to hire artists or to license art from people like me. Why would they when it will be so easy to just “find” art on the internet and claim they couldn’t find whose property it is? The onus will be the creator to prove he or she is the owner, at tremendous expense for having to register in multiple registries, pay all court costs regardless of outcome and forfeit the income of being able to re-use the art for additional clients.

We are in the age of information and with the new advances in technology, the wide open opportunity for theft of intellectual property is only surpassed by the big business entities who are eagerly awaiting the passage of Orphan Works Legislation in order to profit of the backs of hardworking artists. These big businesses have already persuaded some in Congress to believe they “need” this to pass, as was explained to me by one prominent member of Congress’ aide. While Google has indeed provided the world with some amazing and wonderful tools, this should not entitle them or any other big businesses to harvest our personal property, whether for profit or not. I get up each day and go to work like anyone else. My JOB is making art. I put in long hours, I pay my taxes, I hire accountants, and I purchase software and equipment. I provide a tangible necessity to those manufacturers who have chosen to be in partnership with me for the purpose of product creation.

Last year, products bearing my art sold in the millions of wholesale dollars. It sold BECAUSE of the colors I chose, the way I placed the elements, the artistic attributes my years and years of experience enable me to offer to my clients. This is my life’s work, my calling and my passion. Please don’t allow those who are more powerful and well endowed to steal from me just because they can. We need our government to stand up for small business and support us by keeping the wolves and vultures away.
Sincerely,
Brenda Pinnick
Brenda Pinnick Designs, Inc.

Ken Dubrowski said...

Dear Ms. Espinel

I am writing to you concerning the issue of copyright protection and how a loss of this protection will affect artists like myself.

Over the last decade, freelance writers, artists and photographers have seen significant attempts by some to take possession of our copyrights. These corporations wish to dismantle copyright or to find ways to profit from the ownership of images at the expense of the actual owners.

Many artists are fighting to protect artist’s rights on the national level as copyrights and intellectual property become commerce, but they do not have the financial resources to compete against corporate involvement or organizational corruption.

One such example is the current debate over the attempt to pass an Orphan Works bill. This bill, which is an effort to overthrow copyright protection under the guise of freeing up intellectual property for the general public is a real financial threat to artists and their copyrights. If this bill were to pass, artists would be forced to register their works in several for-profit Orphan Works registries in order to prove that the work is not abandoned. Much like existing domain name registries, artists would have to pay all scanning and registries fees on their entire body of work on an annual basis. I myself have over 1000 images and countless more sketches.

This financial burden just to provide proof that artist’s copyrights are not abandoned, even though existing copyright law already protects their work would become so cost prohibited that many artists would fall into noncompliance and risk losing ownership of their work. Their work would then be purchased and appear on the internet forcing artists to compete against their own works.

Many for profit businesses have seen the financial benefit of having artist’s works deemed work for hire or orphaned so they can be used without further compensation. These for profit businesses and even several artists’ organizations that once protected copyrights have seen that by supporting the Orphan Works bill, they can participate in an annual revenue stream with the creation of their own version of an Orphan Works registry. Artists do not have the resources in place to fight to protect what is already theirs if such a bill were to pass.

(continued)

Ken Dubrowski said...

(continued )

Artists can no longer turn to those organizations that once protected artist’s rights. Organizations that are collecting these royalties and should be distributing them to their rightful owners are instead keeping these fees to support their own activities or worse yet, support bills that further hurt the artist community.

For years, a small group of artists have tried to find a way to get foreign reprographics fees, which is earned income that freelancers make but do not receive, distributed back to the rightful owners. These are overseas royalties rightfully earned by the copyrighted work of artists but because there is no distribution system in place, these royalties are being diverted away from the owner.

Since there is no government run or independent system in place, this money can be used any way an artist’s organization or society deems fit. Already these funds have been used to prevent continued efforts to successfully return these royalties to artists. And there is no accountability in place as to how these royalties are being used.

I fear these once respected groups and for-profit businesses will continue to pursue venues in which they solely profit off of artists at the expense of artist’s copyrights. If we continue to allow our copyrights to be weakened in this manner, the financial costs to protect our works or to prevent our own royalties from being used against us will only increase.

There are ways to protect copyright law without allowing for the dismantlement of existing law. We need to ensure the public that the administration will instead move forward to prevent the loss of income to artists, help return royalties earned to artists and the continued protection of their copyrights by offering a fair Orphan Works bill.

In order to do this correctly more attention and public debate is needed with artists who have shown a willingness to defend artist’s rights and not profit from them.

I thank you for your attention on this matter.

Ken Dubrowski

Freelance Illustrator
Director of Operations Illustrator’s Partnership of America
845 Moraine Street
Marshfield MA 02050

Don Schaefer said...

It is with pleasure that Pro-Imaging.org submitted the following comments to IPEC:

Dear Ms. Espinel,

Pro Imaging is an international support group of full time professional photographers with representatives in over 30 countries, from China to the EU to South Africa.
http://pro-imaging.org

Pro Imaging is active in informing and protecting the rights of artists and image creators and runs high profile campaigns in support of all artists. We developed the “Bill of Rights” for fair photo competitions in an effort to reform gross rights-grabbing expropriation of creatives’ work. Pro-Imaging actively assisted in educating the public and Congress to the dangers of the flawed Orphan Works 2008 Bill.
http://www.pro-imaging.org/content/view/177/156/

In Boston, Massachusetts, where I am based, Pro-imaging joined the Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition and Artists Under the Dome for the benefit of Massachusetts creative businesses, and to assist in working towards our shared goals seeking fair representation for artists in the legislative process.
http://artistsunderthedome.org
http://artistsunderthedome.org/malc

All our members are small business owners and artists who rely completely on licensing and copyright protection for the support of our families and homes. Increasingly, there are, and have been, many attempts to weaken these protections and make the process of copyright enforcement expensive, complex, and onerous. Such legislative attempts, e.g., orphan works legislation, would have effectively stripped small business owners and ordinary citizens of any meaningful right to their creative property and transferred that to any number of commercial, corporate entities.

The biggest threat to our livelihoods, and to the privacy of ordinary citizens, is this potential for commercial exploitation of not only our private, creative property but our national heritage artifacts for special-interest profit. We welcome and support IPEC's efforts to bring all voices to the table to craft fair and meaningful protections for all citizens in an open and transparent manner, and one that respects the rights of citizens in other countries by honoring the letter and spirit of the Berne Convention and TRIPS agreements.

Sincerely,

Don Schaefer
co-admin Pro-Imaging
MALC steering committee