Step 1: Understanding Small Claims
American creators are among our nation's greatest economic contributors. The harsh reality of copyright law in America, however, is that our nation's one-size-fits-all system leaves out most visual artists. The system currently works for low-volume, high-value creators – motion picture creators, recording artists, etc., but it is largely ineffective for small creative businesses like professional photographers.
"A small claims process for copyright enforcement would be the single most important copyright improvement for photographers."
Because most common infringements are valued at a few thousand dollars or less, seeking remedies in Federal Court is not a viable option. Consequently, many creators have copyright protection on paper, but no viable option for enforcing those rights.
A small claims option would correct this decade-long inequity in the law, and would extend protection under the law to hundreds of thousands of small-business creators. Visual artists are entitled to an effective means of enforcing their intellectual property rights. The time has come to correct this injustice.
PPA proposed the creation of a copyright small claims tribunal under the United States Copyright Office, and supports many of the conclusions and recommendation of the Copyright Office's 2013 report on that subject. In order to be effective, this process must be simplified, allowing remote and electronic submissions. There are some constitutional issues at stake, creating the need for this process to be voluntary, but we urge lawmakers to build incentives into small claims legislation to encourage defendants to participate in the process. Check PPA's proposal for copyright small claims here.
The Case for Copyright Small Claims
American Bar Association, Section of Intellectual Property Law - Comments to US Copyright Office (2012)
Industry survey conducted by Professional Photographers of America (2015)