Medical Illustrators Call for a Balanced Approach to Orphan Works

LEXINGTON, Kentucky (February 6, 2013) – The Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI) filed comments with the U.S. Copyright Office in response to their Notice of Inquiry regarding Orphan Works and Mass Digitization.

The AMI encourages the new Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante, to foster a balanced approach to finding precise and limited solutions for orphan works digitization and cultural preservation. "Orphan Works" are copyrighted works—illustrations, photos, books—whose owner cannot be identified and/or located by someone who wishes to make use of the work in a way that requires permission of the copyright owner.

Visual art is particularly vulnerable to “orphaning” through no fault of the creator. Artist signatures are removed or cropped, credit lines and copyright notices are separated from the image, illustrations are scanned and placed online without attribution and metadata embedded in digital images are routinely stripped upon upload. Rampant Internet infringement fosters serial orphaning.

The AMI opposed the Orphan Works Acts of 2006 and 2008. The excessive and unlimited scope of previous legislation would have permitted anyone to commercially exploit a work if he or she could not identify, or could not locate, the creator. It radically limited artists’ remedies to recover from infringement or obtain injunctive relief, precluded the recovery of attorney fees for artists but not for infringers, and reinstituted formalities that would have propelled many works into the public domain. It would have resulted in the loss of exclusive rights and destroyed the market for the work of visual artists. It made no distinction between US works and foreign works, violated numerous international treaty obligations and would have deprived foreign artists of their rights as well.

Unauthorized mass digitization and resulting class-action lawsuits, including the failures of the Google Books Settlement Agreement and Amended Agreement, have exposed the insincere agenda driving much of the call for ‘copyright reform’: to transfer the ownership of valuable content – and the copyright revenue streams – from creators to others.

The AMI acknowledges there is no evidence of an orphan crisis requiring a legislative response. Fair use principles, Section 108 archiving provisions, and existing damage limitations (§ 504 (c) 2 (i) and (ii)) for nonprofit educational institution, library, archive or public broadcasting provide much, if not all, of the framework needed by the cultural sector to fulfill their missions.

Read the full text of AMI’s comments here. To read about the Copyright Office inquiries on the subject of orphan works click here.

CONTACT: Melanie Bowzer, Executive Director 866-393-4264