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Big Day for U.S. Copyright Law and Advocacy on Capitol Hill
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Two Proposed Reforms Led by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and Backed by Creative Rights Caucus and Visual Arts Alliance Hit the House of Representatives' Floor

by James Yates

Atlanta, GA (December 8, 2016) - Major ground was broken on two fronts in Washington D.C. in regards to long-awaited changes in U.S. copyright law. First, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released the first policy proposal to come out of the committee's review of U.S. Copyright law.  According to a released statement, the policy proposal includes "granting the Copyright Office autonomy with respect to the Library of Congress, requiring the [U.S. Copyright] Office to maintain an up-to-date digital, searchable database of all copyrighted works and associated copyright ownership information, and many others reforms" including a small claims process for copyright infringement.  On that latter subject, the policy proposal states, "The Copyright Office should host a small claims system consistent with the report on the issue released by the Copyright Office.  The small claims system should handle low value infringement cases as well as bad faith Section 512 notices.  The Register should be given the authority to promulgate regulations to ensure that the system works efficiently."

Meanwhile, also in the House, Representative Judy Chu (D-Ca.) and Co-Sponsor Lamar Smith (R-Tx.) have introduced the "Fairness for America's Small Creators Act", a "small claims bill" that would make it possible for small business image creators (i.e. professional photographers) to take advantage of the U.S. copyright system for the first time since its inception.  This small claims bill would provide creators with an effective remedy to protect their works, and make sure that they are paid for what they produce.  The bill establishes a tribunal made of two attorneys with extensive intellectual property (IP) and/or copyright backgrounds and a third arbitrator familiar with U.S. Copyright law, who would oversee the new small claims process for infringement remedies. 

In the U.S., Copyright claims have traditionally only been allowed to be filed in person in federal court.  The "Fairness for America's Small Creators Act" allows for those whose work has been infringed to file a claim online and the corresponding hearings will be held via video conference without the requirement of an attorney.  Under the "Fairness for America's Small Creators Act", copyright claims can be filed without prior registration with the Copyright Office; However, registration must be completed before the tribunal gives their decision.  The cost for this process is set to be kept to a minimum, but is still being decided on at this time. The maximum recovery amount is set at $30,000, ensuring that small creators have a place to remedy their copyright infringements, but also preventing the tribunal process from being clogged.  Those who wish to pursue their copyright claim in federal court may still do so, and it will be noted that the parties opted out of the small claims option.

"The New Year couldn't get off to a greater start for professional photographers and other visual artists," says PPA CEO, David Trust. "These are two giant announcements. The reform of the U.S. Copyright Office, including modernization of the office and the registration processes, has been one of PPA's biggest advocacy issues over the past 10 years.  The current one-size-fits-all registration system simply doesn't work for professional photographers.  This didn't matter as much, however, because of the lack of a small claims process.  Now, in one day, we have movement on both issues.  Just as important as the introduction of Representative Chu's small claims bill, is the statement released by Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers.  It's an indication that they really want to get this done. December 8, 2016 will stay as a big day for U.S. Copyright Law!"

The timing, a flurry of activity all seemingly in one day, coincides with the end of this Congress's 2016 lame-duck session.  PPA will continue to work with the incoming Congress and actively engage with House members as it also mobilizes its 30,000 photographer members to reach out to their respective Representatives and lend their support to this new piece of legislation in 2017.  

About PPA:
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the largest international non-profit association created by professional photographers, for professional photographers. Almost as long-lived as photography itself, PPA's roots date back to 1869. It assists nearly 30,000 members through protection, education and resources for their continued and sustainable success. See how PPA helps photographers be more at PPA.com/BeMore.





By Sidra Safri
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11:45 am
Immediate update! As I am sitting here writing this, we got a call from Rep. Judy Chu's office saying they are releasing the Small Claims bill TODAY.  Another giant milestone in the fight to protect photographers! The bill will be called the Fairness for American Small Creators Act. Stay tuned for the official announcement and the ability to read the final bill! 

11:30 am
The holidays have come early for creative artists! PPA just got out of our meeting with Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and it could not have gone better. The entire Visual Artist Coalition was able to attend the meeting, with the sole purpose of talking about the importance of small claims and our concern with the removal of Maria Pallante as the Register of Copyrights. Chairman Goodlatte agreed with us wholeheartedly and said that something needs to be done for sure. 

After talking to us for a few minutes, Chairman Goodlatte gave us some fantastic news: he has prioritized four necessary reforms for the Copyright Office... and Small Claims is on that list! This is the first time a member of the House, let alone a ranking member of the House, has come out and said that Small Claims is a priority. This is a huge win for Creative Artists! However, this does not mean that our work is done. YOU, as a creative artist, are more important to this movement than ever! 

Keep in mind this is going to be a long journey, and we're just getting started! Once the bill is introduced, we still need to go through both chambers of Congress. However, having the Chairman talking about Small Claims is a huge win, and a step in the right direction. This meeting honestly could not have gone any better. It almost seems as if Chairman Goodlatte was reading our minds! CEO David Trust, Director of Membership Kristen Hartman, and I are all celebrating on Capitol Hill! This one meeting made our trip even more worth it! We hope our other two meetings today go as well as this one. Stay tuned for more news to come!

8:00 am

By Sidra Safri 
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Yesterday, we reported on how great our Creative Caucus Briefing went. Your PPA Advocacy team can now report that the rest of the day was one success after another. The meeting with Representative Nadler (D-NY) was fantastic. During the meeting we even realized that Anne Geddes (Panelist for CRC), her husband Kel, and Rebecca Blake (Graphic Artist Guild) were all constituents of Representative Nadler! Representative Nadler has always been open to listening to why small claims legislation is necessary, but it is even better when it comes from someone who lives in his district...and we had THREE! Representative Nadler was very appreciative and wants us to keep him up-to-date about any developments on small claims. We hope that as time goes on and a bill is finally introduced, we will have the support of Representative Nadler.

After meeting with Representative Nadler, we made our way to Representative Lamar Smith's (R-TX) office. It was great to be able to touch base with him and have him talk to Anne Geddes about the importance of a small claims bill. This meeting was very productive and gave Rep. Smith direct insight into the importance of small claims copyright protection, and how both small businesses and the famously successful are impacted by infringement. We know that Representative Smith is an advocate for small business and copyright and hope that he will be ready to support the small claims bill when it is introduced!
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Today we have another action-filled day. We have four meetings back-to-back, and we are going to cover a lot of ground. Since there is so much going on, we have our friends from the Visual Arts Coalition joining us in these meetings. As the saying goes, "There is power in numbers!" If every single member of all seven organizations signed up for the Grassroots Action Team we would be 50,000 members strong! Image the impact that would have on Capitol Hill! Remember, it is now more important than ever for you to sign up and join the Grassroots Action Team and make a change!

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by Sidra Safri
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2:30 pm
We just got done with our Creative Rights Caucus event and we have to say... it was a GREAT SUCCESS! Staffers loved the opportunity to meet with our entire panel and hear about their journey through photography. Representatives Chu and Collins were present and eager to share the importance of small claims copyright protection and small business in general. Everyone who attended was extremely impressed with the event and have asked us to follow up with them in the future. We believe this event left a great impression about Small Claims with the attendees, highlighting why it is so important.

After we clean up the event, we are taking our wonderful panelists, along with other members of the Visual Arts Coalition, to an impromptu meeting with Representative Jerrold Nadler of NY. Representative Nadler is interested in hearing about Small Claims protection and why it is so important to visual artists.
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After Representative Nadler, we are meeting with Representative Lamar Smith. Since Representative Smith has always been a champion for small business and Small Claims, we have to make sure we stop by and share our appreciation with him every time we come to DC!

There is plenty going on between now and tomorrow so stay tuned! Don't forget: encourage everyone you know to sign up and lend their support to the cause of Copyright Small Claims! 
By Sidra Safri 
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12:30 pm 
PPA is back in Washington D.C. for one of the most exciting trips yet! Yesterday's summit with the Visual Arts Coalition was a great success. This Coalition is made up of seven members including American Photographic Artists (APA), American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA), Graphic Artists Guild (GAG), National Press Photographers of America (NPPA), Photographic Licensing Universal System (PLUS) and Professional Photographers of America (PPA). This summit occurs once a year to check in on making progress for the rights of creative artists.

While there, the Coalition discussed the status of the small claims bill, and the removal of Maria Pallante as Register of Copyrights for the Library of Congress. Members of the coalition are just as upset as PPA and we all hope that some change is made to benefit the copyright office. 

During our summit we also had the opportunity to talk to Keith Kupferschmid of the Copyright Alliance and Rob Kasunic of the Copyright Office. Both meetings gave us great insight into the direction the Library of Congress is heading in and gives us plenty of hope for the success of small claims. However, we know that small claims is still going to be something we must fight for. Hearing Rob and Keith speak reminded everyone how important it is, now more than ever, to make sure you're signed up for the Grassroots Action Team and your voice can be heard!

We are getting ready for the Creative Right Caucus now, with Representatives Chu and Smith. Everyone is excited to hear Denis Reggie, Michael Grecco, and Anne Geddes speak about their journeys through photography. More updates to come soon!


By Sidra Safri 
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Your PPA Advocacy team is heading to D.C today for a very busy and exciting week, beginning with the Visual Coalition Summit tomorrow. This will give PPA an opportunity to make sure everyone in the Visual Artist Coalition is on the same page for Copyright Small Claims, and talk about a few other things important to Visual Artists.

Wednesday will be the Creative Rights Caucus event. This will give PPA the opportunity to show members on Capitol Hill the importance of Small Claims and the impact it can have on small businesses, especially those in the photography and graphic artists' world. This is also one of the few opportunities to reach the mass amount of staffers and members on Capitol Hill and share your stories. During this briefing, Anne Geddes, Denis Reggie, and Michael Grecco will share their journeys in becoming a photographer, including the education, time and investment they had to make to be where they are today. They will also touch on the importance of a small claims process for copyright protection and how it is necessary to all creative artists.

Following the CRC event we have meetings lined up to help us reinforce the necessity of small claims. These meetings will be attended by PPA and other members of the Visual Coalition. Attending these meetings in a larger number shows the importance and impact a small claims copyright bill will have.

Stay tuned throughout the week for further updates. And be sure to SIGN UP to lend your name and voice in support of our efforts to improve copyright protection for artists. 

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by Sidra Safri
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3pm
Today has been an action packed day! Many Congressional offices are just as concerned as we are with the removal of Maria Pallante from her post as Register of Copyrights and want to make sure Intellectual Property issues continue to be championed. Sharing similar sentiments was the office of Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Senator Hatch has been a huge advocate for intellectual property issues, including small claims protection. 
 
When they heard about the removal of Maria Pallante, Hatch's office was just shocked as PPA. They stated that this abrupt removal gives Congress all the more reason to look into Small Claims and the separation of the Copyright Office from the Library of Congress. However, since the next few months will be busy with the transition of a new administration, Copyright Small Claims is going to be a slow process...but one that is needed! 
 
After talking with Senator Hatch's office for about 45 minutes, we hope that they will continue to champion the rights of small creators and go on to endorse small claims when the time comes. 
 
After meeting with Senator's Hatch's office, we had the opportunity have a joint meeting with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Both offices understand the need for a small claims option, but know that this is going to be an uphill battle. With the many changes that are occurring (including preparing for a new administration), it is important to focus on our long term goals. During this meeting we also talked about how important it is to have a grassroots effort to make sure that the voice of the people is heard.  As PPA's CEO David Trust stated during this meeting, "It is now important, more than ever, to make sure that Congress does the right thing, and protects small businesses and creative artists." 
 
This was a great start to our outreach in the Senate, and we hope to continue to visit with key members of both the House and Senate. Luckily, there were not any major changes in the leadership within the Intellectual Property world since the last election, clearing the way for our efforts to ensure that small claims legislation becomes a success!
 
And, as always, don't forget to sign up for the Grassroots Action Team and make sure your voice is heard!


11:30
Your PPA team is back in D.C., attending meetings with key members of congress who hold small business, small claims and intellectual property issues in high regard.

Today, we're with the Senate and our first meeting was with Senator Risch's office. Senator Risch (R-ID) holds IP issues very close to his heart and wants to make sure small businesses succeed. The senator's office shared with us that many photographers are on his staff and his constituents are active creative artists who understand how important a small claims copyright process can be. Even though our meeting with Senator Risch's office was fairly quick, we are hoping that he will join us in fixing the injustice facing small business photographers and creative artists. 


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by Sidra Safri

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4:30 pm

Our first meeting for the day was with Representative Judy Chu's office. We discussed details of the Small Claims bill and got a good idea of some of the working language that is now going into the bill. We know the introduction of the Small Claims bill is taking longer than we originally thought, but making sure it is able to best serve creative artists is key. We want to thank Representative Chu's office for all their hard work and for being an advocate for the Creative Artists.

Next, we had the opportunity to meet with acting Register of the Copyright Office and Director of Copyright, Karyn Claggett. This meeting was important, as it allowed PPA to see how the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office currently feel about Small Claims. Both offices want to take a very hands-off approach and want to continue to help Congress in an advisory position. Basically, they will follow Congress' guidance. This is good news for PPA and provides a positive outlook for small claims!

Karyn Claggett also let us know that Dr. Carla Hayden, the current Librarian of Congress, has ties to the creative community. Her parents have a musical background and other family members are very active in the creative-rights world.

Both meetings were very productive, especially the meeting with the Copyright office. These meetings reassured PPA that small claims is heading in the direction we have been pushing for. DON'T FORGET! The most important thing you, as a PPA member and/or someone who cares about the rights or artists, can do is to sign your name to our ever-growing list of supporters and share, share, share with everyone you know. 


More to come tomorrow

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8:30 am 
Good Morning! We are up bright and early, heading to D.C. for PPA's first advocacy trip since the termination/resignation/removal of Maria Pallente as Register of Copyrights. Small Claims is just as important to you and your fellow photographers as it was before and we want to make sure D.C. knows this. We will start the day with a strategic meeting with our resident lobbyist, Cindi Merifield, who will fill us in on any new developments on Capitol Hill since our last visit.

Today we are meeting with Representatives Chu and Collins' offices to talk about the status of the Small Claims bill, and also for a general check-in. PPA wants to make sure we always visit both Representatives Chu and Collins since they have been a huge asset to the success of small claims. While we are in D.C we are also going to visit Dr. Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress. During this meeting we want to emphasize the importance of modernization to the Copyright Office and how important the Small Claims bill is to PPA's members, small businesses and artists in general. 

We will keep you updated throughout the day with new developments. Off to D.C we go!

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by James Yates

The following is a press release PPA has sent out addressing the dismissal of Maria Pallante as Register of Copyrights and what it means for PPA's goals of a small claims copyright option.

Major Changes to the U.S. Copyright Office May Delay Updating Copyright Law

Professional Photographers of America Vows to Continue Moving Forward with Legislation Changes

Atlanta, GA (October 28, 2016)

The U.S. Copyright Office, positioned within the Library of Congress, suffered a potential setback to its goals for modernization and reform this week as its Register of Copyrights and long-time advocate, Maria Pallante, was removed from her job on October 21st, 2016. The newly appointed Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, has appointed Karyn Temple Claggett, currently Associate Register of Copyrights, as the acting Register while the search for a new Register of Copyrights is underway. Before her removal, Pallante had been an ally in PPA's effort to secure a small claims process for copyright infringements.
    
The news comes as a shock to content creators (photographers, authors, songwriters, graphic designers, etc.) who make up the U.S. copyright-protected community, and to members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees who are tasked with conducting the comprehensive review of current copyright law. Pallante was an advocate for the introduction of a small claims copyright option, which would allow better copyright enforcement for all content creators. She was also pushing for the modernization of the U.S. Copyright Office, moving it out from under the jurisdiction of the Library of Congress.  A stand-alone U.S. Copyright Office would closely pattern the model used for the Patent and Trademark Office. 

"We were all certainly surprised by what appeared to be a very aggressive move on the part of the Librarian of Congress," said PPA CEO David Trust. "We already have a meeting set with Dr. Hayden where we will discuss our concerns, and try to get a better understanding about how this change might affect the movement to create a small claims process. We look forward to developing a productive relationship with Dr. Hayden and the next Register of Copyrights."

For more than ten years, Professional Photographers of America (PPA) has been working on Capitol Hill, explaining the critical need for a small claims enforcement option for mom-and-pop creators. "That won't change," says Trust. "Photographers and other visual artists have always been treated inequitably under the current copyright system. Passing a small claims bill will continue to be our number one priority on The Hill. And we are going to need the help of every member - every visual artist."
 
Last summer, PPA started a Copyright Grassroots Action Team to provide a structure to mobilize its 30,000 photographer members and the creative community at large. Currently 7,500 members strong, this group of professional photographers and visual artists is growing, as all understand the need for broader copyright defense options in the U.S.

Why is a copyright small claims option so crucial for content creators such as photographers and visual artists? The cost and burden of seeking damages in the only existing venue for copyright infringement claims--federal district court--is prohibitive and leaves most artists no way to enforce their rights. A small claims process within the U.S. Copyright Office would finally provide a fair, cost-effective and streamlined venue where artists could seek remedies for unauthorized uses of their work.

The inability for photographers, and other low-value, high-volume content creators, to pursue a case against an infringer of their work is an injustice that demands to be fixed. For example, unless a case will yield a potential judgment of $100,000 or more ($30,000 at the bare minimum) it is usually a non-starter for intellectual property lawyers. Under the current framework, there is very little recourse for an artist who has their stolen work valued at a few thousand dollars or less. A small claims option within the Copyright Office would remedy that and it is a non-controversial and bi-partisan issue everyone can agree on.

For updates on the latest news as it unfolds, and to add your support to the growing number of small claims-supporters, head to PPA.com/Advocacy

About PPA:
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the largest international non-profit association created by professional photographers, for professional photographers. Almost as long-lived as photography itself, PPA's roots date back to 1869. It assists nearly 30,000 members through protection, education and resources for their continued and sustainable success. See how PPA helps photographers be more at PPA.com/BeMore.

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4:30pm We finished our last two meetings for the day. Right after lunch we met with Representative Lamar Smith's (TX) office. He was happy to hear from us about the progress of the Small Claims bill and is waiting as anxiously as we are for the bill to drop. He is looking forward to continuing working with PPA. His office understands that it is important to get the word out about small claims to ensure we can get all the support we need when it comes time for a vote. (Grassroots!) Hopefully, Representative Smith's office will be able to co-sponsor when the times comes.

Out last meeting for today was with Representative Steve Chabot's (OH) office. This was our first meeting with his office and they were very open to the idea of small claims. Like the other first-time meetings we've taken this week, it was important to lay out the foundation of small claims and history of how PPA began advocating for photographers' copyright protection. His office was very attentive and fully understood why small claims would be important. This was a very preliminary meeting and PPA hopes to be able to follow up with Chabot's office as we get closer to the bill being released.

We are headed to the airport for the return to Atlanta. This was a jam packed and extremely productive meeting. PPA is extremely happy with how how responsive everyone was and even more excited about the bill and upcoming meetings at Capitol Hill!

Be sure YOU'RE taking action and encouraging everyone you know to lend their name to PPA.com/Grassroots and learning more about Small Claims at PPA.com/Advocacy


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12:30pm We just left Representative Richmond's office (LA). He thoroughly enjoyed the update on the Small Claims bill and we discussed, and he understood, why photographers can't be treated the same as Hollywood artistic properties, with the relatively "low" value placed on works of photographic or visual art compared with motion pictures and music publishing. This is why a small claims option is so important! Richmond's office was very optimistic about the legislation in the long term, but acknowledges that it is important to keep the upcoming elections in mind. Richmond's office want on to say that "nothing is more bipartisan then small business owners" and he can see why small claims would be popular and a bipartisan issue. He hopes, upon reading the bills, they can co-sponsor and help bring copyright protection to photographers.

11:45am Just finished up our first two meetings of the day. Representative Bishop's office (MI) fully understands and embraces the importance of Small Claims Copyright legislation and the effect it could have on photographers. We brought Representative Chu's bill to their attention and they were extremely interested to read further when the bill is introduced. They will continue to do their own research and let us know what they think. We hope Representative Bishop will join us in this fight for small claims!

After leaving Representative Bishop's office we met with Representative DeSantis' office (FL). Representative DeSantis informed us of how important copyright modernization and small claims is to him and hopes that we can make some headway in that area soon, since we all need to have a deeper look into small claims. He is waiting to hear back about Representative Chu's bill and will hopefully be able to co- sponsor when the time comes.


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9:30am: We have another exciting day ahead at Capitol Hill. This morning we have three back-to-back meetings with House Representatives. 

We start off in Representative Mike Bishop's (MI) office. This will be our first meeting with this office and we hope we can show them how important the Small Claims Copyright legislation is and eventually get him to co-sign when the bill is introduced. 

After Bishops office we are going to Representative Ron DeSantis' (FL) office. This meeting is an update to discuss the progress we have made on the bill and the great support we have via our Grassroots team! Once we leave Representative DeSantis' office we are meeting with Representative Cedric Richmond's (LA) office. This is also a follow-up meeting and an opportunity to remind him of how important small claims is and hopefully convince him to co-sponsor soon!

We have a lot going on Capitol Hill today! Stayed tuned for more!



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