I touched on this subject a few weeks ago (see this post) and, at the time, it seemed the hysteria was unfounded. There is now actually legislation before Congress (S 2913, HR 5889) that some support, but many creative types – singers, authors, artists – don’t. There are countless blog entries on this topic, and I cannot add more to the many erudite postings, other than to point you to a few –
Example favorable comment on the bills: http://www.publicknowledge.org/node/1537
Example unfavorable comments (of which there are many):
I’ll be honest: the summaries I’ve read, both pro and con, leave me more than a little nervous about the potential unfavorable impact on us artists, who are almost universally self-employed, sole proprietors, or otherwise individuals trying to make a go with our creativity. As often seems to be the case with well-intentioned legislation, the bill is overly broad, VERY important details (such as what defines “a reasonably diligent search”, or how “visual registries” will be set up and run) are left mostly to the imagination, and the overall effect is far too mushy to be anything other than attorney grist.
If you want to take action on the bills, here’s a quick link to do so – http://capwiz.com/illustratorspartnership/home/
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Short story: I’m getting emails from various artist sources about this bill, which – supposedly – is pending before Congress, on a fast track for passage before summer recess, and will render life for artists and other creative types unprofitable and worthless because any douchebag who wants to will be able to rip off our image copyrights.
Long story: an “Orphaned Works” bill was before Congress in 2006 but did not pass at that time. The idea is to allow things that have been in apparent copyright forever (decades) and for which no clear copyright owner exists to enter the public domain. The Copyright office appears to be legitimately concerned about how to handle this situation (who owns the copyright on your parents’ wedding photos? could you even find the original photographer?) without endangering current creative image generation.
The story that is generating all the hysteria, due to its “THE SKY IS FALLING OMG” tone, is: http://mag.awn.com/index.php?ltype=pageone&article_no=3605&page=1
A lucid post – and pretty much a complete rebuttal to the panic and FUD – is at http://maradydd.livejournal.com/374886.html.
Basically, this post affirms that our current state of affairs – I have a copyright on any painting of mine the instant I finish it – will remain the same. And that it’s my problem to track down anyone with the temerity to infringe my copyright (again, as it is now). Please read the Radio Free Meredith post . . . and breath a sigh of relief. But of course, it’s worth staying informed on the issue.
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Did you know that my originals, or those of Howard Terpning, are valued only at the $10 or $20 worth of paint and canvas used to create it – at least according to the IRS? Currently, an artist who donates a piece of artwork – think charities and museums – can deduct essentially just the value of the materials used in the work’s creation. A collector can donate purchased artwork and deduct fair market value for tax purposes, but the work’s creator cannot. (Maybe Congress is worried that there are folks selling $50 paintings on eBay who might take a deduction of $5000 for a donation).
Legislation has been offered before to correct this clearly ludicrous situation, but has always died due to lack of support or interest by artists. Congress is (amazingly) actually doing something and trying again in this regard; it’s (amazingly) easy to take action on these bills, by going to the Advocate for the Arts email action center.
I have to say, though, that the current materials-only-deduction thing has let me weasel out of numerous requests for donations. Why is it that artists – all good souls to begin with, and many lacking much money – get tapped so continually for donations? I get requests often enough that I would have no work left to send to my galleries if I responded to all these. I’ve salved my conscience by telling the requestor:
- about the deduction issue
- that I focus my donations in just one area (that being The Nature Conservancy)
- that if they have a benefactor who is willing to purchase my artwork and donate it to their auction (the typical venue for requestors) I’d give them a small discount, the benefactor would get a deduction, and the auction would get a good painting – a win-win all around. Oddly, no one has ever taken me up on this.
BTW, someone wrote about the whole “artists being tapped for charity” issue not long ago in a magazine somewhere (not that I can remember where or who or when) and suggested that part of the problem is that we’re all too damn eager to fork over artwork to some charity for auction, in the hopes that we might get some recognition for our saintliness. And that we oughta stop being so forthcoming.
This rather resonates with me; I’m not really willing to hand over a nice painting that took me several weeks to paint and that might sell in some two-bit animal rescue auction in Outer Timbuktu for pennies on the dollar compared to my retail prices because the bidders don’t know my work, are not art aficionados, and are (typically) just at the auction looking for bargains. I do donate prints occasionally, but no originals. I have never yet had someone contact me to say “Hey, I saw that nice print of yours in the Outer Timbuktu coatimundi rescue auction!” (let alone “…and I gotta get me some of your work!”), despite all the glowing promises by the charity about how much publicity the event will get, and that I can send along a couple pounds of business cards to spread around.
OK, grump mode off.
P.S. I have yet to paint a coatimundi.
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