[UPDATE: The previous link to the cartoon didn’t work; I found this permalink, which explains that it isn’t in the print newspaper and isn’t intended for regular readers. So the snark isn’t called for. Anderson’s thoughts on the matter are worth reading, and make me more dubious about the law in question — if the illustrators are really up in arms against it it’s more likely to be a bad idea. On the other hand, I have my doubts about the idea that this really prevents someone from selling exclusive rights to a work. Also, it’s mildly ironic that Anderson gives as part of the reason for copyright that no one can alter his work without his permission, but it appeared on the Chicago Tribune comics page without the context that he intended and that explains the meaning. In fact, I’m generally opposed to the idea that other people shouldn’t be able to alter work without their permission; I don’t think that Gilbert O’Sullivan should be able to stop Biz Markie from sampling him; this is aside from the question of whether Biz Markie should have to pay him, which is a much grayer area. (Ideally I think that the originator of the sample should get some kind of percentage of the royalties, which wouldn’t prevent small acts from doing any sampling, but would mean that if the sampled song was a huge hit the sampled artist would get lots of money. But I don’t know how to enforce that.)]
Nick Anderson, who drew this cartoon, appears not to understand how the second person pronoun works. That is: Why does he say “Your Copyright” when most of the people reading the cartoon have no copyright?
Anyway, I hadn’t heard of the Orphan Works Act, but it sounds pretty good. Thanks for spreading the word, Nick!
Less snarkily, there are obvious complications here — I doubt that Nick Anderson is a real fat cat — but copyright is horribly abused by legacy owners, and I’m generally on the side of people who want to make it easier to use ideas that are out there. If we could have a reasonable copyright period perhaps this act wouldn’t be necessary; as has been observed the de facto copyright period is however long it’s been since Steamboat Willie, plus enough lead time to allow another extension. (Another trite observation: It’s ironic that Disney is such a malefactor here, since so many of its movies are based on works that fell into the public domain before they came along.)