VIDEO: An Evening with Bruce Lehman
Webcast presentation from Society of Illustrators, New York, February 21, 2008

PROTECT YOUR COPYRIGHT: Respond to the Librarian of Congress' Survey to Select a Qualified Register of Copyrights DEADLINE: January 31, 2017 [Click here for Survey Page]



ASIP VISUAL WORKS REPLY COMMENT (September 22, 2015, 715 K)

ARTISTS ALERT: U.S. COPYRIGHT OFFICE Notices of Inquiry (click left or scroll down)

As copyright holders of published illustrations we unite to protect our copyrights, establish transparent accountability of the reprographic royalty streams earned by American illustrators, and promote the proper licensing of our works.

A collective rights administration for published American illustrators is long overdue. Significant sums of reprographic royalties due artists are being lost or dissipated without accountability while reprographic usage is escalating. Reprographic royalties are paid when published work is photocopied by libraries, institutions, corporations and other users. This income is earned when copyright collecting societies license secondary rights users to photocopy or digitally republish printed material anywhere in the world. Reprographic royalties may derive from published articles, cartoons, illustrations, photographs, maps, charts, etc.

Reprographic rights are held individually by each artist but are licensed collectively by a copyright collecting society that artists have mandated to administer these rights. Regrettably, there has not been a U.S. copyright collecting society to represent American illustrators, and illustrators do not currently receive any compensation for the exploitation of their reprographic rights.

In 2001, the Illustrators’ Partnership of America founded the IPA Reprographics Coalition to establish transparent accountability, protect these copyrights, and create a system to assure that artists are properly represented in this emerging source of secondary rights income. The Coalition grew to 12 professional illustration societies representing over 4,500 of the most prolific and widely published illustrators in the world. In October 2007 the Coalition united as a non-profit named the American Society of Illustrators Partnership.


The U.S. Copyright Office Seeks Artists' Comments

For more than a year Congress has been holding hearings for the drafting of a brand new U.S. Copyright Act.

There is no bill yet. But the Copyright Office has issued recommendations to Congress for a law that would replace current copyright law.

These recommendations include a resurrection of the failed Orphan Works Act of 2008.

That bill called for a return to copyright registration for every picture an artist wished to retain the rights to. Registration would not actually protect your work — an infringer could still infringe you. But by registering it, you would preserve your right to sue in federal court.

Unregistered pictures would still be yours and in theory, clients would still have to get your permission to use them. But if they were to conclude that they had made a "reasonably diligent" but unsuccessful effort to find you, then they could infringe the work as "orphaned."

The Copyright Office says that several other artists' issues are "ripe" for legislation: copyright small claims, resale royalties, and other forms of secondary licensing which most artists have never heard of.

The Copyright Office has issued a special call for letters from visual artists asking what challenges we face in licensing and protecting our copyrights. Many of you have already written. We hope many more will do the same.


American and foreign artists can submit letters online here.

Read the Copyright Office Notice of Inquiry.

Read the 2015 Orphan Works and Mass Digitization Report.


Because of our past opposition to orphan works legislation, the Copyright Office has issued a special Notice of Inquiry on Visual Works. In it, they acknowledge that visual artists face special problems in the marketplace and they've asked artists to respond to five questions:

"The Office invites comments that address the subjects listed below. When submitting a comment, please identify the nature of your interest in this subject (e.g., whether you are a creator, licensee, etc.):

    "1. What are the most significant challenges related to monetizing and/or licensing photographs, graphic artworks, and/or illustrations?

    "2. What are the most significant enforcement challenges for photographers, graphic artists, and/or illustrators?

    "3. What are the most significant registration challenges for photographers, graphic artists, and/or illustrators?

    "4. What are the most significant challenges or frustrations for those who wish to make legal use of photographs, graphic art works, and/or illustrations?

    "5. What other issues or challenges should the Office be aware of regarding photographs, graphic artworks, and/or illustrations under the Copyright Act?"

[Emphases added for clarity]

And we might suggest a 6th question of our own:

    6. What are the most significant challenges artists would face if these new copyright proposals become law?


Since most artists have never written to lawmakers before, many of you have asked us for sample letters. It is important that the Copyright Office receive unique letters.

Eight artists have provided their letters to inspire you to write. The letters are poignant examples written respectfully by artists telling their own unique story about their experience and concerns:

  • LETTER 1: "I'm writing to stress that for me, and for artists like me, copyright law is not an abstract legal issue. Our copyrights are our assets. Licensing them is how we make our livings." Read more.

  • LETTER 2: "As a freelance illustrator, I need to maintain revenue streams in order to make a living for my family. The resale of my past images is part of my day to day way of doing business." Read more.

  • LETTER 3: "My art is reasonably well known since it has served the advertising, editorial, public relations and historical documentation needs of the aerospace industry, publications, the military services and air and space museums for 68 years." Read more.

  • LETTER 4: "I am writing to you as an award winning professional illustrator of over 40 years whose work has appeared in many major publications, books and advertisements, both nationally and internationally." Read more.

  • LETTER 5: "I have been a professional medical illustrator since 1975, and self-employed since 1981. During the course of my career, I have created thousands of illustrations..." Read more.

  • LETTER 6: "Copyright is the basis of my income and ability to support my business. It is the only way I have to protect the accuracy and integrity of my work, and to negotiate an appropriate fee for re-licensing." Read more.

  • LETTER 7: "My specialty area is fetal development and women's health illustration... The protection of these images is of utmost importance to my livelihood, and I have struggled to fight the rampant piracy of them, especially by political groups." Read more.

  • LETTER 8: "I am writing to ask that you create policy to protect visual authors and their exclusive rights, and support a sustainable environment for professional authorship." Read more.

Remember, no one is asking you to write a legal brief. Copyright law is a business law, and the lawyers writing these laws know little or nothing about our business.

Let's explain to them how the laws they're writing will affect us.

BELOW: Podcast by Children's Book Illustrator Will Terry, "Everything You Know About Copyright Is About To Change":