You’re probably already aware of the Orphan Works Act. In short, Google is behind a move to radically change copyright law so they, and others, can display cartoons (as well as other things) with no regard to copyright. Someone could take one of my (or your) cartoons, remove the creator’s name and post it anywhere for profit.

The cartoonist would be responsible for tracking it down. Even then, the violator is only responsible for giving you a small one-time usage fee and is not liable for any damages. And the only way one can protect yourself is to upload everything you’ve ever done into two or three not-yet-created databases. The idea being that if someone scans those “official” databases and doesn’t see your stuff, it’s okay for them to use it.

Oh, those databases will be run by for-profit groups so you would have to pay to have this done … The working number is $10 per image upload. Yes, it’s that one sided.

You can read more about it here.

The initial legislation was introduced in the middle of the night tacked on to a bill for funding bridges. Luckily, a lifelong friend to the cartoonist community, Stu Rees, caught it. The initial push was stopped. Several arts organizations, the National Cartoonist Society included, are now fighting back and are having an effect. They’ve made it amazingly simple for you to respond. It can all be done electronically in seconds by going here.

The counterattack is having a distinct effect. But since Google is behind this (initially hiding behind a couple of museum organizations), it’s going to be daunting.

To be honest, this has been bugging me for a while. The site makes it amazingly simple to fire off a few e-mails to your congresspersons (even if you don’t don’t who they are). Heck, I have no idea if it’s going to help, but it made me feel that much less helpless.

And that was worth the short time it took.