Well, I am back from Atlanta Gift Show, License and Design, AmericasMart

The weekend flew by, we made some great contacts. I hope that Atlanta continues the License and Design Section in years to come. It was a small section, being the first year, but I think it will build.

Here's a photo from our booth. Our webpage with artist links are located here.
Joan Beiriger, Phyllis Dobbs , Allison Stine, Brenda Pinnick, Stella Violano, and myself.

On a more serious note, let's talk about Orphan Works bill for a second. For those who aren't familiar with it, it deals with intellectual property when the copyright owner can't be found. Museums, educational institutions can then use and display the work. Could be artwork, could be music, could be software. The way the bills are written, however, leaves a loophole for companies to use artwork for profit without permission or proper compensation to the creator.

Google Orphan Works Bill for more info. There are 2. A Senate version and a House version. You can also find lots of information at the website for Illustrators Partnership.

I am opposed to the bill as it is written. I think it's fine for schools, museums, etc. to display artwork. But they aren't profiting from it.

Now read below about what happened at the Atlanta Gift Show to Washington State artist Sharyn Sowell. Sharyn is a paper crafter, a silloutte artist, who licenses her designs to manufacturing companies. If Orphan Works does pass, her story emphasizes why it's not good, as it is written now.

From Sharyn, she gave permission to share her story. Copied and pasted in its entirety from an artist board.

During the Atlanta Gift show this weekend I had an experience that made me reflect again
on the devastating effect the Orphan Works Bill will have on us if it should pass
without alteration.

One of my licensing partners told me to go down to the temporaries, where someone had
work that looked to him something similar to mine but with a twist.

When I got there I was shocked to see my own images photocopied and used as wall art.
My art was her booth. I won't bore you with all the details but suffice it to say she
admitted she'd stolen my work.

"I didn't mean to hurt you," she said, "I just used your pictures is all."

I picked up a catalog before I confronted her, along with her name. I faced her with the
truth and she readily admitted to "borrowing" but insisted she didn't know where she'd
gotten them. "I really don't know, I can't remember, I have so many sources,"
she told me.

I insisted on taking samples of the images, which she didn't want to give me.
I said if she didn't give them to me I'd call the police and make sure they took
photos. I got the samples and stuck them in my briefcase. The quality was so horrible I
was embarrassed at such a bad knock off! This woman thought that because she was
showing my work on the opposite side of the country I would never know of the theft. If I
had not been tipped off I'd have missed it.

I wonder... how many of us have our work sitting in someone's portfolio or showroom and
we have not discovered it yet. If we do happen to find such blatant copyright infringement,
what will we do if OWB takes effect, and our hands are tied? As soon as the new legislature
is seated we need to start sharing our concerns and
insisting that legislators listen and act to protect intellectual property.

Right now the law protects me but under OWB this thief could say she had no idea who
owned the image and I'd have no recourse. Let's stay informed and make sure we follow
the developments, insist on our voices being heard. Don't let this fall by the wayside
because you've got battle fatigue.

I've been knocked off before but it's always been by big corporations. This time I faced the
individual, looked her squarely in the eyes and was shocked to see that she had no shame
at all, no denial, no guilt. It was very personal. I felt like I'd returned home to discover a
burglar in the house. It shocked me how intense I felt about it.

I'll be calling my attorney in the morning. This was a good reminder for me, and I share it
in the hopes that you'll keep this issue at the forefront. Especially if you have a new
legislator this is a great time to make your voice heard. This weekend it
was me, but next time you could be the victim.

Sharyn Sowell

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