Redressing copyright wrongs
Professional Photographers of America continues to fight for copyright reform, this time via a white paper that outlines a plan for a small claims process to redress infringements.
Under current copyright law, it’s nearly impossible for the average photographer to go after an infringer since the battle must take place in federal court and damages must exceed $30,000. On average, infringements for professional photographers are valued at about $3,000. Although that’s a meaningful sum to many working photographers, it doesn’t mean enough for an attorney to take on a federal case. A small claims process would enable photographers to more easily seek such damages.
The white paper, “Visual Artists Groups: Summary Recommendations of Key Components of a Copyright Small Claims Tribunal Bill,” was created through a collaboration among a number of associations including PPA and represents the interests of photographers, photojournalists, videographers, illustrators, graphic designers, artists, and other visual artists.
The paper lays out a framework for small claims legislation, calling for a copyright small claims tribunal within the U.S. Copyright Office to handle infringement claims that don’t exceed $30,000. The white paper proposes that visual artists be able to file claims with or without legal representation, that the process be supported by federal funding to make it affordable to visual artists, and that it be as straightforward as possible with such accommodations as remote proceedings by phone and electronic document submission, for example. It stipulates that a visual artist be able to remove the case to federal court if the process reveals damages exceeding $30,000. In addition, it proposes that copyright registration be updated so visual artists can more easily register their work.
“The harsh reality is that the vast majority of creators in America are currently excluded from copyright protection,” says PPA CEO David Trust. “This would finally level the playing field for small creators.”
For updates on copyright legislation: ppa.com/advocacy.
Amanda Arnold is associate editor of Professional Photographer.