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A US Bill Threatens Canadian Artists’ Rights

Montréal, May 15th 2008 – Artists’ Associations from accross Canada and Quebec are seriously worried about a new bill on the verge of being submitted to the US Congress : ‘’The ORPHAN BILL’’. Lobbies from Hollywood, the Internet industry, associations of American museums, etc promoted this bill that stipulates that any work where the author is not known could be used and commercialized at will if a “reasonably diligent search.” has failed to find the author. This “reasonably diligent search” would be determined by the user/infringer.

This bill targets all types of work: from professional paintings to family snapshots, from artistic work, to commercial work, personal and wedding photos, published or non-published, from literary works, to music, to visual arts, to film, works that reside or have ever resided on the internet or have been disseminated by any media. The bill may be more damaging to the visual arts and music because this kind of work is more frequently disseminated on the web without due credit or, in some instances, with the artists name removed. This will also have an enormous impact on Indigenous people’s culture since their work is never attributed to any individual.

At the same time this bill will create privately held commercial registries. Private corporations will be able to create registries where all authors will have to register all of their work to protect them from becoming orphaned: ie; for a photographer, every click of the camera, for an illustrator every sketch. Any work not registered could become orphaned and could be used and/or commercialized by any American entity. It will be the private sector that will decide the cost and the means of registering one’s work.

Even if this bill becomes a law in the United-States it will have a very big impact on creators around the world, on creators like you. Obviously this bill when passed into law will not make any difference between the works created by an American citizen and the works created by anyone else in the world. The implication is that EVERY work from everyone in the world would have to be registered in the USA. (Not a bad way to create an economic boom for Google and other American corporations). This create two different worlds with unfair competition: Only Americans will be able to appropriate most of the world work’s, while this practice will stay illegal in the rest of the world. Meanwhile, it may well induce a crash in the price of licensing work everywhere else.

This law violates the international Berne Treaty and the TRIP negotiations (Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property TRIPs UNESCO.) It may be susceptible to an international lawsuit under international treaties.

That is why the Creator’s Rights Alliance (CRA-ADC), the Regroupement des artistes en arts visuels du Québec (RAAV), the Association des Illustrateurs et Illustratrices du Québec (AIIQ), the Association québécoise des auteurs dramatiques (AQAD), the Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communications (CAPIC) and Canadian Artists’ Representation / le Front des artistes canadiens (CARFAC), a group of associations representing 140 000 Canadian Artists, are urging the Canadian Government to take action in order to protect the rights of Canadian artistic creators and prevent this bill to be adopted.

Sources : More information about the bill can be found here.