The Rt Hon Gordon Brown
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

A. citizen
100 Any Road
Typical Town


10th June 2008

 Dear Prime Minister

US bill will violate the Berne Copyright Convention

I have recently heard of the U.S. Orphan Works Bill, H.R. 5889 and S. 2913 this bill has international implication for artists, illustrators and photographers who will be forced, if the bill is passed in its present form, to spend a substantial amount of time protecting their copyright. They will also be forced to spend a considerable amount of money on an annual basis to maintain copies of their images on a database. Digimarc for example, is a company that provides digital watermarking and tracking of unauthorised use for photographers at a cost of nearly 500 USD a year.  Although this is an excellent service it is beyond the means of most artists and presumes that images are in a digital format. All works of art and other materials will need to be photographed in order to be digitally protected.

 Prime Minister I would like you to carefully consider -the information provided in the letter below- on the effects this U.S. bill will have on British artists, illustrators and photographers and write to the appropriate US authorities on behalf of citizens of the UK and Northern Ireland.

Yours Sincerely

A. Citizen

Link to Information about the bill:

 For our International Friends and Colleagues from  The Illustrators' Partnership

Source of letter below:

SAMPLE LETTER FOR INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS (and others who work with images)

Dear _____________________,

 I'm writing to urge you to oppose the U.S. Orphan Works Bills, H.R. 5889 and S. 2913, introduced into the House and Senate on April 24, 2008. These bills would amend the U.S. Copyright Law by adding “§ 514. Limitation on remedies in cases involving orphan works.” (Chapter 5 of Title 17, United States Code.)

 This new law establishes yet another new defence to copyright infringement—orphan works. This new limitation on remedies will be imposed on any copyrighted work regardless of the national origin of the author of the work concerned.

 What is an “orphan work”? It is any copyrighted work whose author cannot be found after a “reasonably diligent search”—conducted by the infringer. The infringer decides when he has met this imprecise test.

 The infringer would be free to ignore the rights of the author and use the work for any purpose, including commercial usage. The infringed work could be used in any motion picture—including X-rated—any commercial advertisement, including political advertising, tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceutical advertising.

 The new law also allows the original work to be manipulated beyond recognition in “mashups”, “remixes” or other digital manipulations and allows the infringer to claim copyright in the derivative work without the consent of the owner of the infringed work.

 In order to challenge the infringer’s assertion of the orphan works defence, a copyright owner must bring a lawsuit in order to determine if the infringer is actually entitled to the orphan works defence. The lawsuit must be brought in Federal court in the United States. The tremendous cost of these lawsuits obviously harms independent artists who own their own copyrights, artists who reside outside of the United States, and smaller copyright owners—they cannot afford to sue to enforce their rights.

 This is a radical departure from existing international copyright law and conventions, as well as normal business practices.

 These bills will have a disproportionate impact on visual artists because pictures are commonly published without credit lines or because credit lines can be removed by others. This is especially true of art published in the Internet Age. And since unmarked pictures cannot be sourced or dated, works by artists like me – who live and work outside the U.S. - will be just as vulnerable to infringement as the work of American artists.

 Because visual art is so vulnerable to orphaning, there is only one way to match an unmarked image to its author: by relying on image-recognition databases. The Copyright Office has stated that with the passage of these bills, such registries will be “indispensable,” and they have stipulated that the registries must be created in the private sector and run as commercial, for-profit ventures.

 Forcing artists to rely on any form of registry to protect their work is a violation the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. This law forbids any member country to impose registration on a rights holder as a condition of protecting his copyright. But forcing international artists to rely on commercial registries in order to protect their work from infringement – infringement permitted by a law unique to the United States – violates all norms of international intellectual property protection. 

There are many reasons why international law forbids coerced registration. Before such registries can be meaningful, all the billions of images currently protected by copyright must first be entered into them with authorship information intact. That means that millions of pictures from around the world which go unmatched will be orphaned, even if the artists are alive, working and managing their copyrights. This would even be true of images registered in the databases, but which go unmatched because of computer errors.

 There is no limit on the number of these registries. The burden of paying for digitization and depositing the digitized copy with the private registry would fall entirely on the artists. Most professional artists have created thousands – or tens of thousands - of drawings, sketches, photos and paintings. This includes both published and unpublished work. The costs of paying to have all these works digitized and registered would be beyond their ability. Yet the Copyright Office has stated explicitly that failure of the artist to meet this nightmarish bureaucratic burden would result in his work being automatically “orphaned” and subject to legalized infringement.

 Presumably the Copyright Office and Congress expects non U.S. artist like me to register all their past and future art with the new hypothetical U.S. databases, or see my work exposed to commercial infringement under U.S. law.

 These bills will create massive uncertainty in the markets where visual art is bought, sold and licensed. It will do this by voiding entirely the exclusive rights of every visual artist whose work any infringer can lay claim to. Reason: I would be powerless to stop the unauthorized uses of my art, even in cases where I would never, or could never, permit those uses. Besides seeing my work used in objectionable or defamatory ways, this will void existing contracts already in force between me and my clients. This is an attack on the principle of art itself, because my exclusive right of copyright is the only tool I have to assert creative control over my work and to protect its value in the marketplace. 

The U.S. is a member country of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (The TRIPs Agreement). Article 13 of this copyright-related treaty allows certain “limitations and exceptions” to an artist’s exclusive right of copyright. These are codified as a Three-Step Test:

“ Member [countries] shall confine limitations and exceptions to exclusive rights to:

(1) certain special cases

(2) which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work

(3) and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rights holder.

 The Orphan Works Bills of 2008 have been written so broadly that their use cannot be confined to true orphaned work. These bills will violate the Berne Copyright Convention and fail the Three-Step Test of TRIPs.

 Any Orphan Works solution should precisely limit an orphan work to uses in the cultural heritage sector for non-commercial purposes, or use by recognized museums and libraries for preservation and education.




PLEASE SEND COPIES (preferably by fax as letters are delayed due to security ops) TO:

Ambassador Susan C. Schwab
 Office of the United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20508
United States of America

FAX: +1 (202) 395-4549
(Telephone: (202) 395-3000)

Marybeth Peters
Register of Copyrights
U.S. Copyright Office
101 Independence Ave. S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000
United States of America

FAX: +1 (202) 707-8366
(Telephone: (202) 707-5959)

Jon W. Dudas
United States Patent & Trademark Office
P.O. 1450
Alexandria, VA 22313-1450
United States of America

FAX: +1 (571) 273-8300
(Telephone: (800) 786-9199)

Reuben Jeffrey III
Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
United States of America

FAX: +1 (202) 647-9763
(Telephone: (202) 647-7575)

A letter has been received from the Prime Minister's office. The letter has been forwarded to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform so that they may reply directly.