Okay, maybe the headline is a bit of scare tactic, but it's not at all off base and it was meant to make you look. An example used by The Illustrator's Partnership is that a photo of your child waving to their grandmother could be used in a brochure by the Aryan nation to promote hatred of Jews. And I'm betting that unless you are a professional photographer (or very serious amateur) you don't even know about this currently proposed legislation.
I had been taking my time reading all I could about the proposed Orphan Works Act of 2008 and listening to both sides when APE posted an urgent notice this morning that the House called a markup meeting at 2:00pm Eastern. I realized that I had no doubt about my position and immediately wrote to my representatives to make my voice heard before the session. Only a few hours left...
Why should you care? Well you know those photos you've been uploading to flickr, shutterfly, Picasa Web Albums, etc? I'm going to guess that many of you do not embed your copyright information in the EXIF (and even if you do it's fairly easy to remove), and I'd also guess that you don't register your family photos with the copyright office. The proposed Orphan Works legislation will allow someone (such as a large corporation) to perform a reasonable search to identify the owner of an image, and if the owner is not found the image will be deemed an Orphan. That will allow anyone to do as they please with the image, including sell it for a profit or use it for advertising purposes. To be fair, the legislation was originally proposed for the benefit of museums and libraries, but as it is currently worded it has drastic implications for both professional and amateur photographers.
There is a lot of information available on the web for further research, but if you are reading this before 2pm Eastern time and you want to voice your opposition, there are several editable form letters set up at The Illustrators Partnership that will automatically e-mail your representatives for you. When you click on the link, scroll down the page to "For the Image Making Public". There is a well-worded letter there for amateur photographers. There are several other letters available for professional photographers concerning the business ramifications.Even if you're not the type to write to your representatives, I'd urge you to click the link and read the concerns.
Don't lose the rights to your photos. No one should be allowed to make money from your images without your permission. And you should have the right to control the privacy of the people in the images. If this legislation is passed as it is currently worded, we foresee a feeding frenzy of people harvesting online images from unsuspecting ordinary citizens. Google has already announced plans to take advantage of the legislation if it is passed as currently worded.
What really steams me about this is that it does have serious implications for amateur photographers, but I'll bet that only the pro's even know about the proposed legislation.
And do yourself a favor - watermark your on-line images.
Nothing after the jump - it's all front page today.