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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Follow the lead QUESTIONS

One of the things I learned as a librarian and as a citizen is that, much as it pains me, I can't know everything. So it's good to know people who you know and trust to vet things for you.

For instance, if I were suddenly to develop an interest in Doctor Who and wanted to know what book to read first, I wouldn't bother researching it,; I'd just ask Gordon.

So it is with local politics. There's coterie of people whose opinion I trust who I can usually count on for selecting candidates to support. In the last Democratic primary, most of them were supporting one particular candidate. But then another person, who is also a guidepost, not only backed another candidate, but noted some rather uncomplimentary things about the candidate my other friends backed.

Well, I've come to the same conundrum regarding some federal legislation concerning the copyright of "orphan works". On one side of the issue is Paul Rapp, an intellectual property lawyer around here, who supports the idea of the bill. In fact, I wrote about it, and Paul, a/k/a F. Lee Harvey Blotto, drummer of the legendary band Blotto, here. I've known Paul since the early 1980s and trust his judgment. Also on this side is the Special Libraries association, of which I am a member, which supported these modifications to the original legislation.

But on the other side is Steve Bissette, artist extraordinaire, who has a much more negative view, to say the least, as noted here and here. I knew Steve from the mid-1980s, when he produced work that was published by my publisher, FantaCo. We have re-bonded recently in our attempt to get the FantaCo Wikipedia spost corrected. He fears the artists being ripped off.

The topic came up at work when one client of the SBDC had a piece of artwork produced by a street artist and wanted to use the art as part of a logo for her new store. Whole the art belonged to the entrepreneur, the image was copyrighted by the creator. But who is he? Where is he? Is he still alive? Based on precedent established in the library community, our librarian recommended that the business make a "good faith effort" to find the copyright holder, through paid ads in the newspaper and art newsweekly in the city where the artist had been working, describing in detail the situation.

I looked at the material Steve provided, and while I understand that the creative community fears that the legislation will create a license to steal and that people will just pretend to look for an owner before using the image, it seems to me is that this is how it's currently working without legislation.

The bill appears to be dead this year - apparently some economic bailout seems to have been more important - but the issue will come up again.

So, my questions:

1. What topics, if any, do you tend to look to others to help inform you? Who are these information leaders?

2. What is your understanding of orphan works copyright legislation?

I'm so confused...


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