Monday, February 1, 2010

HB 1844 Testimony

Chairman Senator Thomas McGee
Chairwoman Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera
Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development
Room 39 and Room 112
Massachusetts State House
Boston MA 02133

I would like to thank the members of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development for taking the time to listen to my testimony. My name is Ken Dubrowski and I am a nationally known freelance illustrator working in Massachusetts since 1989. I am also the Director of Operations and a founding member of the Illustrator’s Partnership of America.

I am here today to testify in support of HB 1844 An Act Relative to Independent Contractors. As a freelance illustrator I work from my home studio competing for assignments with other illustrators from around the country. Most of my clients also employ on-staff artists. These clients hire freelance artists, like myself, not to compete or replace on- staff artists but to work with them to bring my unique style to their publication. As a freelancer, I am not afforded the same benefits as a staffed artist who receives paid healthcare and office expenses, but given current U.S. and international copyright law, I am afforded the protection of the ownership of my copyrights. This allows me to control the usage of my images and how I wish to resell those images to other clients.

Under the Massachusetts Independent Contractor 2004 Law, I am not afforded those protections, as I will no longer be considered a freelance independent contractor but an employee of my client thus losing the ownership of my copyright. Once a company owns my work it can be sold or resold without my consent.

The unintended consequence of this law hurts Massachusetts-based freelancers in several ways. First, outside companies may seek to ignore using artists from our state for fear of having to pay penalties. This puts Massachusetts’s artists at an unfair competitive disadvantage, as our trade industry is restricted from open and fair competition with artists outside of our area. The outcome of this law will be a loss of taxable income as Massachusetts based artists see commissioned work going to artists outside the state. This will have a disastrous effect on the Massachusetts economy, as artists will be forced to either transfer their residencies out of state or consider other more drastic measures.

Second, as companies begin to collect the rights of these works, artists would be forced to ironically compete against their own images. In addition, companies would be able to package these newly owned images into collections without having to pay artists any further fee for the usage of their work.

Third and most importantly, this law as it is written will only continue to erode an artist’s protection to his or her own copyright. This law allows those who wish to rewrite copyright law to gain a foothold in our industry by declaring independent contractors as employees.

Over the last decade freelance artists and photographers have seen significant attempts to take possession of our copyrights. During this time, many groups have been trying to dismantle copyright or to find ways to profit from the ownership of images on the web.

The Illustrator’s Partnership of America has been fighting to protect artist’s rights on the national level as copyrights and intellectual property become commerce. Bills such as the Orphan Works Bill are an attempt to overthrow copyright protection under the guise of freeing up intellectual property for the general public. Many for profit businesses have seen the economic benefit of having artist’s works deemed work for hire or orphaned. Thus forcing artists to protect what little control they still have of their own work. Even our own clients have been exploiting our secondary rights without permission or compensation to us for many years.

I ask that you amend the 2004 law to protect our ability to work and earn an income in the state of Massachusetts by adopting the Independent Contractor Bill 1844 as soon as possible.

Ken Dubrowski
845 Moraine Street
Marshfield MA 02050 781-837-3457
Ken Dubrowski Artisan’s Studio
Director of Operations Illustrator’s Partnership of America