PPA's Proposed Alternative to Federal Court Being Considered

A new, easier and more affordable copyright "people's court" that would allow copyright owners to seek damages and other relief from infringers is a concept currently being considered by the U.S. Copyright Office.

Since 2006, PPA has been advocating for an alternative dispute resolution system like this in an effort to help photographers better defend their copyrights. We have recently submitted comments to the U.S. Copyright Office, highlighting the benefits of such a system over the existing federal court process…which requires federal registration of an image, a lengthy trial in the federal courts, and the possibility of a copyright owner walking away with only a meager amount of damages. 

"We have always believed an alternative dispute resolution forum was needed to fill the gap created by those barriers that keep photographers out of the federal courts," notes David Trust, PPA’s chief executive officer.

As a result, we are delighted to see that engaging in a study of possible alternatives to the existing federal court system was one of the first points of order for Maria Pallante, the newest Register of Copyrights. Here are some of the features of the alternative dispute resolution method that is being considered:

  • The copyright owner wouldn’t need an attorney and could represent his/herself.
  • It would be a faster and more affordable method of seeking damages as compared to federal court.
  • Much like a small claims court, damages would be capped at a certain threshold.

The public comment period draws to a close today (Tuesday, January 17, 2012), and PPA looks forward to engaging the Register in future discussions on the framework of this new system.

(Remember: The final decision must ultimately be written up as a bill by Congress, pass both chambers, and be signed into law by the President.)

PPA has been working with a coalition of visual arts organizations on this very subject to ensure cohesiveness throughout the industry. This group met at varying times throughout the comment period as we devised our statements, and we will again meet for a copyright summit on January 24. This coalition is composed of American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), America Photographic Artists (APA), Graphic Artists Guild (GAG), North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), and Picture Archive Council of America (PACA). We look forward to working with these like-minded groups as a means of ensuring an even stronger voice for photographers on Capitol Hill.

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