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VISUAL ARTISTS APPLAUD THE RELEASE OF NEW SMALL CLAIMS LEGISLATION
Washington, D.C., October 4, 2017 – As a coalition of visual artists groups, representing hundreds of thousands of small businesses across America, we write in strong support of the introduction by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) and original cosponsors, Representatives Doug Collins (R-GA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Judy Chu (D-CA), and Ted Lieu (D-CA) of a bill entitled, “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017” (“the CASE Act of 2017”) establishing an alternative dispute resolution program for copyright small claims. We highly commend Mr. Jeffries, as well as Representatives Marino, Collins, Smith, Chu, and Lieu, for their dedication to supporting the creative community—including our members, most of whom are small business owners—and for their keen appreciation of the plight faced by creative professionals who are all too often left with rights but no remedies under current copyright law.
The proposed legislation addresses a decades-old inequity in America's copyright system: a copyright system that all too often denies individual creators and small businesses a viable means of protecting their creative efforts. If passed, the bill would give smaller individual creators the same kind of protections that larger scale creators have enjoyed for years.
Copyright infringement takes a direct economic toll on these often-one-person operations, who must shoulder the burden of policing infringements while at the same time seeking and fulfilling assignments, working on self-initiated projects and maintaining all the tasks of running a 24/7 business. For many, losses due to infringement are overwhelming.
Our coalition includes the American Photographic Artists (APA), American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA), Graphic Artists Guild (GAG), National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) and Professional Photographers of America (PPA).
We pledge to work with Mr. Jeffries and his colleagues in ongoing efforts to continue to refine and strengthen this critical legislation to ensure that it provides long overdue, much-needed and meaningful legislative relief for photographers, photojournalists, videographers, illustrators, graphic designers, other visual artists and their licensing representatives. These artists, currently squeezed out of the legal system by the high cost of bringing suit in federal court for higher volume but relatively low value claims, have seen their licensing revenues decimated in recent years by the proliferation of copyright infringements, particularly in the online context. Enactment of the CASE Act of 2017 will provide an effective, affordable alternative to prosecuting copyright infringement claims in federal court—an option that is all too often not economically affordable for individual small creators.
Copyright small claims reform is our top legislative priority. Coalition members believe the CASE Act is largely consistent with the legislative recommendations set forth in the “Copyright Small Claims” report released in late 2013 by the U.S. Copyright Office, which deserves much credit for its groundbreaking effort in this area. We are grateful for the significant work already undertaken by Congress and the Copyright Office in drafting this bill and we look forward to continuing to work with all parties to properly and substantively help shield our works from copyright infringement; and allow us to earn a fair living.
Last week was a pretty crazy one on Capitol Hill (as they mostly are lately) and, lost in the shuffle, was the fact that the companion bill to H.R. 1695 the bill PPA's Grassroots Team lobbied to get through the House, has now been introduced in the Senate as S. 1010!
From the press release issued by Senator Grassley:
"Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today introduced the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act, which makes the Register of Copyrights a presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed position. This legislation is the Senate companion to H.R. 1695, which passed the House of Representatives last week by an overwhelming vote of 378 to 48. It is the product of bicameral, bipartisan discussions led by these Senators and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers.
The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act makes important changes to the selection process for the head of the U.S. Copyright Office, known as the Register of Copyrights. Specifically, the legislation requires the Register to be nominated by the President of the United States and subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate. It would limit the Register to a ten-year term that is renewable by another presidential nomination and Senate confirmation. The legislation would establish a panel consisting of Members of Congress and the Librarian of Congress to recommend at least three individuals to the President for the position. It would require that the Register be capable of identifying and supervising a Chief Information Officer or similar official responsible for managing information technology systems. Finally, the legislation clarifies that the mandatory deposit requirements for collection at the Library of Congress will remain the same.
Grassley, Feinstein, Leahy and Hatch look forward to working with the Senate Rules Committee on legislation to improve the selection process for the position of Register, and they remain committed to further efforts towards modernization of the Copyright Office.
Bill text is available HERE.
Stay tuned for more updates, and Calls to Action as things continue to progress through Congress!
April 26, 2017 - Professional Photographers of America celebrated the passage of H.R. 1695 (the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act), marking the first important step in the association's goal to modernize the U.S. copyright system.
H.R. 1695 makes the Register of Copyrights, who leads the United States Copyright Office (USCO), a presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed position. HR 1695 gives the Register the autonomy to modernize the Copyright Office to suit the specialized needs of the copyright system. PPA has been activating its 30,000-member base to call or email their representatives in support of the bill.
Cindi Marifield, President R2P Strategies, representing PPA in D.C. says, "It is fitting that on World Intellectual Property Day, the House overwhelmingly passed H.R. 1695, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act. There are not many bills that pass with overwhelming bi-partisan support these days (378 to 48) and it is a tribute to Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Conyers, Congressman Doug Collins and Congresswoman Judy Chu and their staff who worked deliberately and effectively to pass this legislation. This bill is a great first step toward bolstering the Copyright Office and we look forward to both Chambers taking up and passing legislation to create a small claims process for individual creators as efforts to modernize the Copyright Office heat up."
April 10th, 2017 - Many people may be wondering "What good will come from making the Register of Copyright a presidential appointee and how would this make the process less political?" These are great questions with a slightly complex answer.
Currently, the Copyright Office is housed in the Library of Congress with the Librarian of Congress as the head decision maker. The Librarian is appointed by the President for a 10-year term. The Library and the Librarian's role is to capture a screen shot of society and have it readily available to everyone with no regard to credit or compensation.
On the other hand, the Copyright Office and the Register's role is to protect copyright, provide and review registration, and advise Congress on copyright law and policy. With this in mind, one can see that the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office are at odds with what they do. Making the Register of Copyright a presidential appointee is the first step in giving the Copyright Office some autonomy to effectively do what they were created for.
Further, an added protection to ensure this does not become a highly politicized appointment is that whoever is appointed is done so with the advice and consent of Congress. Since Congress would be relying on the Register so heavily it would ensure someone with ample knowledge and experience would be appointed.
For these reasons, we ask you to support H.R 1695 by reaching out to your Representative and take the first step in modernizing the Copyright Office.
March 29th, 2017 - Today the House Judiciary Committee took the first steps to modernize the Copyright Office. The Judiciary Committee passed House Resolution 1695 entitled "Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017". This act turns the Register of Copyright into a Presidential Appointment that must be approved with the advice and consent of the Senate.
H.R 1695 was introduced in response to the abrupt removal of Maria Pallante in October of 2016. Maria Pallante was removed without any prior conversations with members of the Senate or creative artists community. This sudden removal put a lot of what the creative artist community had been working on for so long in serious jeopardy.
With this in mind, Chairman Goodlatte (R-Va) introduced H.R. 1695 to prevent this from happening again. Upon its introduction, 30+ representatives (both democrats and republicans) rushed to sign on as co-sponsors of the bill. With so much bi-partisan support, the House is expected to put the bill to a full vote in the upcoming weeks.
Washington, D.C., December 8, 2016 - December 8th, was a great day for Creative Artists and a step in the right direction for Small Claims and the overall Copyright Office. Two main developments have occurred: First, Chairman Goodlatte of the House Judiciary Committee, the committee that is responsible for determining the agenda for the courts, agencies and enforcement entities, released a "to-do list" for the upcoming Congress in regards to Copyright. At the very top of this list is the modernization of the Copyright Office and the creation of a Small Claims process! This is a huge reason to celebrate, since this is the first time a member of Congress has spoken so openly about Small Claims. And for it to be coming from the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is even better!
Second, Representative Judy Chu of California introduced the Small Claims bill. The bill is appropriately entitled "Fairness for America's Small Creators Act". The bill is being sponsored bipartisanly by Democrat Representative Chu (CA-27) and Republican Representative Lamar Smith (TX-21). The introduction of the bill is the first step towards ensuring creative artists have an affordable remedy for copyright protection.
It is important to keep in mind, that this bill will be reintroduced by Representative Chu at the start of the new Congress in January. Upon its reintroduction, it still needs to pass both chambers of Congress and be signed by the President. You can view the bill here.
Washington, D.C., July 13, 2016 - In the wake of its release of a white paper setting out the key components of a copyright small claims bill, a coalition of visual artist groups commends the attention that this critical issue is now garnering on Capitol Hill. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries's (D-NY) introduction of a bill establishing a small claims bill, and the forthcoming introduction by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) of her own version of legislation establishing a small claims tribunal in the Copyright Office, are a welcomed next step in a process that will hopefully result in much-needed legislative relief for photographers, photojournalists, videographers, illustrators, graphic designers, artists, and other visual artist and their licensing representatives. These artists are currently squeezed out of the legal system by the high cost of bringing suit in federal court and have seen their licensing revenues decimated in recent years by the proliferation of copyright infringement, particularly in the online context.
We look forward to working with Representatives Jeffries, Chu and all members of Congress to correct this inequity in America's copyright system.
Earlier this year, the coalition, which includes the American Photographic Artists (APA), American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA), Graphic Artists Guild (GAG), National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) and Professional Photographers of America (PPA), set forth recommendations with regard to key components in any forthcoming congressional small claims legislation.
Coalition members believe small claims reform to be their top legislative priority and call upon Congress to enact legislation that provides visual artists and other small creators with a viable, affordable alternative to prosecuting copyright infringement in federal court—a prohibitively expensive and little-used option by visual artists. This approach is largely consistent with the legislative recommendations set forth in the "Copyright Small Claims" report released in late 2013 by the U.S. Copyright Office which deserves much credit for its groundbreaking effort in this area.
A copy of the visual artists coalition's white paper is available here.
From the Visual Artists Community
Rebecca Blake, Advocacy Liaison at the Graphic Artists Guild (GAG), says, "Online distribution channels and technologies have facilitated the rampant infringement of visual works, and visual artists have seen their licensing income plummet. And yet small rights holders, such as illustrators, graphic designers, and other visual artists, are often deterred from enforcing their copyrights by the sheer cost of pursuing a copyright infringement claim. The establishment of a small claims system would go far to redress this situation."
James Lorin Silverberg, Legal Counsel for the American Photographic Artists, Inc. (APA) said, "A Copyright Small Claims Court promises to provide authors and content users with an expedient, cost efficient, forum for the resolution of copyright disputes. But the importance of a small claims system is not merely to resolve differences between rights owners and rights users. By making copyrights enforceable in practical terms, it acts to restore the integrity of the copyright system, and copyright licensing models, and it contributes to a more vibrant and healthier intellectual property economy."
Thomas Kennedy, executive director of American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) said, "Implementing a small claims tribunal system within the U.S. Copyright Office is essential to ensure photographers, illustrators, graphic designers and other visual artists are appropriately protected and incentivized to continue producing work that changes how people see their world."
Cathy Aron, Executive Director of the Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA) said, "Our association supports the creation of a copyright small claims forum to encourage licensing of visual content from legitimate sources. A small claims court should help stem the tide of "right-click" image use as it offers content creators and their representatives a way to effectively enforce copyright and seek appropriate payment. The digital economy needs to work for all participants and this is an essential step forward."
Lisa F. Shaftel, Shaftel & Schmelzer said, "Too often when an infringement is discovered, there is little or nothing a visual creator can do to stop the infringing use or recoup financial damages. Our current copyright laws are virtually unenforceable when damages resulting from infringement would be under $30,000. That’s not much to big business, but to self-employed independent contractors and small studios this is a significant loss of income. This relatively 'small-value' infringement happens to nearly every professional illustrator and graphic artist during his or her career, causing economic harm to small businesses and families."
Melissa Lyttle, president of National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), explained the importance of such a measure to photographers. "Photojournalists tell the story of our nation and our world, and their work is a critical piece of our democracy, but rampant infringement has devalued our work and made it increasingly difficult to make a living in this field. A small claims solution has the promise to improve the financial viability of our profession and preserve the ability of journalists to tell stories that would never be told otherwise."
Sean Fitzgerald, president of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) said, "America's photographers and visual creators are desperate. Today’s digital age has unleashed a torrent of 'small' but destructive infringements that are eating away at the value of their work, but the current copyright system is simply not designed to help with such claims. A small claims court designed to give photographers and visual creators a fighting chance at protecting their work and livelihood from infringement is sorely needed and long overdue."
"The harsh reality is that the vast majority of creators in America are currently excluded from copyright protection. A copyright small claims process would finally level the playing field, creating an opportunity to repair a decades-long inequity of our nation's copyright system," said David Trust, CEO of Professional Photographer of America. "This legislation would be the game-changer that we have been working towards for years on the Hill."