Cartoon Blogger Warns About Congressional Bill Against Artists

By: E&P Staff

Daryl Cagle has written a piece for his editorial cartooning blog about a Congressional bill harmful to artists.

“Having ‘second rights’ to sell through Internet databases and ‘stock houses’ is a second income for underpaid artists and, like an annuity, the value of an artist’s artwork increases over time as an artist collects a larger and larger number of works that he can resell through his career,” wrote Cagle, who’s a cartoonist and syndicate executive as well as a blogger. “Artists, cartoonists and illustrators may not have health insurance but we have the ‘pension plan’ of our own lifetime of reproductions rights to resell.”

But that may change, he said. “The ‘Orphan Works Act of 2006’ (H.R. 5439) is now before the House Judiciary Committee; the bill would strip artists of the practical ability to defend the copyrights to their lifetime of works,” Cagle wrote. “The bill was proposed to deal with the problem of ‘orphan works,’ which are copyrighted works whose authors are difficult to identify or locate. Companies have complained that it is too hard for them to find the creators of art that they want to reproduce, so they want to change the law to allow them to reproduce the artwork without permission.”

The Cagle Cartoons syndicate founder added: “The bill changes the law to allow any company to reprint whatever art they want — all that is necessary is that the company itself determines that it has done a ‘reasonably diligent search’ for the artist. Beyond that, the bill removes any significant penalties for copyright infringement. Of course, if a company wants to steal artwork, it is in their interest that their ‘reasonably diligent search’ should fail to find the artist. …

“If a for-profit company is just dying to use an ‘orphaned work’ I’d like to see them hire an artist to make something new — of course, that would be more expensive than just taking the ‘orphaned’ artwork and paying nothing.”

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