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PPA Today: Photography Legal Archives

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By Lindsey Forson

Drones continue to be a hot-button issue in Washington, and PPA has been at the forefront of the ongoing discussions. Make sure you read our previous coverage and then dive in on the brief update below!

A final rule on the FAA's proposed new regulations for drone operation is still in the works and PPA is pushing hard to make it happen. If and when passed, the process for operating small and micro drones for commercial use will become monumentally more feasible than it currently is. PPA is working with The Nickles Group to submit comments to the FAA on the proposal to try to ensure the new rules are as favorable as possible for professional photographers.

In the meantime, the only way for most professional photographers to legally operate small drones for commercial purposes is to petition for an exemption. The Secretary of Transportation has the authority to grant exemptions on a case-by-case basis to perform commercial drone operations prior to the finalization of the new rule. You can learn more about the Section 333 Exemption process

One good thing is that the FAA seems to understand that the current regulations are stifling. Last Tuesday (03/24), there was a significant update to the exemption process passed as an interim policy. You can read more about this update here. This change is meant to streamline to process because the exemption granting authority no longer has to designate a specific plot of airspace to those they grant exemptions to. In a senate hearing held last week, it was said that they hope this will give them more flexibility to grant exemptions. It is also meant to significantly reduce the timeline between applying for an exemption and being able to utilize the exemption.

One change in the exemption process is a good sign of progress and it is possible there could be more to come. Of course the real progress will be when the FAA passes a final rule on new drone regulations. Interim policies only provide a quick fix for "in the meantime."

We feel confident about a much improved final rule being passed in the future but are less confident about the timeline because it is a complex process. Currently, the FAA is awaiting comments on the proposal from the various concerned parties which are due this month. After considering the comments, it is likely the FAA will make some modifications. One of PPA's messages to the FAA is that time is of the essence!

We will post further updates here to the blog as they become available.

Lindsey Forson is PPA's Copyright & Government Affairs Coordinator.  She works with members on a daily basis addressing copyright questions and works closely with our CEO to advocate for professional photographers on Capitol Hill and to keep members informed on the issues that affect their businesses. She's new to Atlanta and spends most of her free time exploring the city (restaurants, markets, parks); spends three nights a week playing soccer and is a huge Auburn fan.  

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By Lindsey Forson

Remember that post from Wednesday on Arkansas Senate Bill 79? We already have an update!

Arkansas Senate Bill 79 was amended very quickly and sent back to the Senate floor Wednesday night. It passed through the Senate and was brought to a House committee early Thursday morning. For those who have not been following the story, SB-79 was created to protect personal property. The bill, however, contained potentially catastrophic consequences for photographers. SB-79 was vetoed by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on Monday and sent back to Congress with a letter from the Governor suggesting improvements.

Efforts were made to mitigate the bill's negative implications concerning professional photographers and any of the concerns expressed to the Governor by PPA on Monday were addressed in the amendments. And though PPA was appreciative of the efforts to address our concerns, we still had issues with the amended bill. We felt certain statements were still overly broad, leaving photographers subject to possible lawsuits with a burden of proof. Several members also reached out Thursday mornings to express their concerns. Further, we were apprehensive about the rapid turn-around of this bill and felt there was not time to comprehensively address our concerns.

As the bill was in committee in the House of Representatives, we spoke directly with Senator Woods, the bill's sponsor. The Senator expressed that he tried to address our concerns and that the bill was never meant to harm photographers. He then asked PPA to publicly support the amended bill as it was presented in the House. Of course, we declined the request.

The bill FAILED yesterday afternoon in the House committee. We have spoken with Senator Woods and the attorneys who worked with him to create the bill expressing a desire to give input as further amendments are made. The parties involved seem very open to working with PPA's Copyright & Government Affairs team. The legislative session in Arkansas came to a close yesterday and we will not see this bill until the next session or until a special session. We look forward to working with Senator Woods to ensure the new bill will not be harmful to photographers, and we are grateful for his willingness to hear us out.

Our sincere thanks also to PPA Arkansas affiliate, APPA, who spent this week working tirelessly to advocate for photographers with representatives on the ground at the Capitol. The APPA representatives were in constant communication with us, keeping us updated every step of the way and having a huge hand in defeating the bill.

Whenever the next amended bill moves forward, we will give you another update and make sure it has photographer's best interest in mind! PPA has your back!

Lindsey Forson is PPA's Copyright & Government Affairs Coordinator.  She works with members on a daily basis addressing copyright questions and works closely with our CEO to advocate for professional photographers on Capitol Hill and to keep members informed on the issues that affect their businesses. She's new to Atlanta and spends most of her free time exploring the city (restaurants, markets, parks); spends three nights a week playing soccer and is a huge Auburn fan.  

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Professional photographers received good news over the weekend as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released new guidelines that would seem to pave the way for widespread legal use of small drones in the U.S. While the details are far from complete, the proposal would seem to open the door for professional photographers to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) as an additional offering for their clients. However, that door is not open just yet.  


PPA has been working directly with the FAA and key Capitol Hill staff to bring about this very change - urging the FAA to loosen restrictions on some of the more basic uses for UAS, commonly referred to as drones. If approved, the newly released rules would allow legal use of unmanned aircraft by specific businesses including filmmakers, farmers, smokestack inspectors and some photographers. 

"It is going to be a while before our members can start to use drones as a regular part of their work," says PPA's CEO David Trust. "But these new rules clearly reflect that the FAA was listening to our concerns, and we applaud them for taking this step sooner than later."

The FAA's full proposed rules can be read here. The summary of provisions on pages 10-12 highlights the basics of the proposed regulations.

There are many operational limitations in the new regulations; however the four below are important to highlight:

1. Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg)

2. Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the operator or visual observer

3. Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation. 

4. Daylight-only operations (official sunrise to official 11 sunset, local time).

There are also several operator responsibilities to keep in mind:

1. Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center. 

2. Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration. 

3. Obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, never expires).12

4. Pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months

"The proposed test has yet to be created," says Trust. "Once it is, we'll do all we can to help our members access the information and compile their applications." Sources in Washington D.C. indicate that creating the test could take months.  

And there could be even more positive news on the horizon for PPA members as the FAA has agreed to look at more relaxed regulations for micro-drones, a class of unmanned aircraft weighing less than 4.4 lbs. That is significant to photographers since many are already using these smaller drones outside of their business.  

PPA will be back on Capitol Hill next week for more meetings on both unmanned aircraft and copyright issues.  "As pleased as we are about the proposed rules for UAS, we might be even more pleased with the discussion about micro-drones," says Trust.  "I suspect they may even have more day-to-day application for our members. Hopefully we can find out more about those rules next week."   

In our recent "The Government Shutdown and You" blog post we discussed how the current government shutdown has affected copyright registration. Since we had copyright on our minds, we figured it was the perfect time to remind you of your PPA member copyright benefits. Remember, just because the copyright office is currently closed, that doesn't mean you can't still send in copyright registrations or that your copyrights are no longer valid!

A frustrating day for any photographer can be when you discover that someone is using one of your copyrighted images without your permission. Not only is it illegal--it also cuts into your bottom line! So what do you do if it happens to you? Luckily for PPA members, there's an easy solution: just call PPA's copyright and government affairs department at 800-786-6277 or by email at

Once you've contacted PPA, we'll help you determine the next steps to take to resolve your copyright infringement problem. If you wish to do so, you can also have us contact the infringer on your behalf as a way to get them to stop the practice or bring them to the negotiating table. 

Of course, we hope that you never run into a situation where someone has violated your copyright, which is why PPA provides a whole host of resources to help you protect your copyrights. 

Visit the copyright resources page to download the Copyright Kit, which will give you a great overview of the copyright process. You can also find copyright inserts you can include with your clients' orders to help keep them educated about copyright. Finally, there's also guides you can download to help you with electronic copyright registration as well as sample contracts for giving someone permission to reproduce one of your copyrighted images! 

Don't forget about the copyright webinars on the copyright resources page. They'll walk you through the basics of important copyright information you should be aware of. 

In addition to providing you with resources, PPA's RECON program checks on local retailers to make sure that they are obeying copyright law. If you're a PPA member, you can become part of this program! 

The Retail Compliance Network (RECON) is a dedicated group of photographer investigators who go undercover in an effort to preserve the integrity of photographers' copyrights. They embark on stealth missions to local retailers who offer photo finishing services or use online print services to see if they are complying with copyright law. If a retailer violates the laws, PPA approaches them with the results and urges them toward greater compliance. 

If you'd like to become a RECON investigator, you can download an application; just remember you need to be a PPA member. 

Along with all of these efforts, PPA members can also get a discount on services to add digital watermarks to your images. This is especially important for photographers that post copyrighted images to forums, websites, Facebook or other social media! The watermark lets everyone know who these images are copyrighted by and cuts down on illegal use.

So, access the copyright resources today and make sure all your images are properly copyrighted! These resources are just for PPA members, so join PPA today to have access to the resources as well as copyright assistance. 

Want to read more about protecting your images? Check out the "10 Ways for Photographers to Protect Their Copyright" post.

Nothing says springtime like ducks, chicks and bunnies, right? How about bringing in a pony for one-of-a-kind western-themed portraits? Limited-edition portraits like that can be a great idea and seem easy enough on the surface...but they can easily go awry if you aren't taking the proper precautions to protect yourself and your client.

Read the complete article here.

Dear PPA Member ,

Have you ever had to cancel a doctor's appointment? It's not unusual--schedules change and the unexpected happens. But do you know what your doctor's cancellation policy is? A business usually expects a certain amount of warning if you are going to cancel an appointment. It allows them time to try to fill that empty spot and not be out business (or money) on their end.

The same can be said for your photography business. While you may not have appointments every hour like a doctor, you still work with clients who may, for whatever reason, need to cancel their sessions with you. That is why this week's Vital Signs article reviews preparing for and handling cancellations. Understanding how to work with a client and creating and enforcing a cancellation policy can help make the most of an unexpected situation.

Christel Aprigliano
Director of Member Value & Experience

Dear PPA Member,

Did you know that PPA is the only photographic organization that has a full-time Copyright & Government Affairs staff? We are serious about defending the rights of photographers on Capitol Hill, especially when it comes to copyright. Your images, much like an author's words, a songwriter's music or a moviemaker's film, need to be protected because--let's face it--if you give your work away, you're not making money. And it's worse when someone steals it.

That's why PPA works hard to provide members with resources to help when copyright infringement happens. This week's Vital Signs delves a little deeper into what you need to do, what your options are and how to determine what you can do. (Here's a hint: We recommend registering your images and immediately downloading the PPA Copyright Kit, which can answer a lot of your questions.)

You can't be everywhere, but if you understand what you can do--and what you can do to prevent copyright infringement--you may be able to reach a speedy resolution if it does happen to you.

Christel Aprigliano
Director of Member Value & Experience

Dear PPA Member,

You open an envelope addressed to your studio. A beautiful image of your client's family graces the holiday card's cover. Wait...that's your image. You turn the card over and cringe. They bought the cards from a large retailer, not you. And you sell holiday cards.

You're probably not feeling the holiday spirit at that moment, are you?

It happens all the time, and it's not just around the holidays. But how do you deal with that type of situation? This week's Vital Signs brings up this less-than-jolly subject, in the hopes that you beat the holiday rush that your clients may want to make with your images...rushing straight to a retailer. Educating yourself and your clients about copyright infringement (and what to do when it happens) may not make visions of sugar plums dance in your head, but perhaps it can put some green in your wallet.

Christel Aprigliano
Director of Member Value & Experience

Dear PPA Member,

We live in a digital world. The fine art of handwritten letters still exists, but most of our communications these days are by text or e-mail. Intimate conversations still occur, but the setting may be Skype or Facetime rather than next to a roaring fire. As the technology we use changes, so does the way we live"and work.

While many PPA members began their careers before the advent of digital cameras, digital opened up a whole new world of options. Not only did you have access to new equipment and technology, but how you presented images to your clients changed as well. Does the request for digital files ring a bell for anyone? What do you do when a client demands them?

Nothing can take the place of a cherished handwritten letter, a friendly hug"or a beautifully created heirloom print. But when you can't have those, digital will have to do. This week's Vital Signs discusses how to establish your policy on sharing digital files. When you encounter a client who makes this request (if you haven't already), it's best to know where you stand on the issue and how to respond so that everyone wins. Communicating your digital files policy (and educating your clients on copyright at the same time) is part of living in this digital world.

Christel Aprigliano
Director of Member Value & Experience

iStock_000000322194XSmall.jpgYour clients need to get your approval before using your images...just like you need to get approval to use someone else's music during your session, on your website or as part of your slideshow. But music licensing can be confusing! That's why you should tune in to tomorrow's free webinar, "Are You Tuned in to Music Licensing?", (September 29 - 4:00pm ET) and ask questions of Jack Flynn from BMI, an American performing rights organization that represents more the 475,000 music artists! This is your chance to learn the rules and better understand how the process works.

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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Photography Legal category.

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