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... or when the U.S. Copyright System Received Grades of Ds and Fs

By Lindsey Forson

To get a quick background on why we were in Washington, DC for this event, get the background info in this blog post.

The briefing was a huge success! Over 100 people were in attendance, most of who are on the staffs of key members of Congress. Our panel of five distinguished visual artists, Denis Reggie, John Schmelzer, Lisa Shaftel, Mary Fisk-Taylor, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, ABI, API, and Michael Grecco, spoke passionately about how copyright is at the core of their livelihoods and why copyright protection matters.

The primary message of the panel discussion was that although the copyright system in the United States may work for some creators such as the high value, low-volume creators like motion picture creators, it does not work at all for small business creators like visual artists in general and photographers in particular. When asked to grade the copyright system in America for how well it works for each of their specialties, the panelists gave either a D or an F! Some of the issues pointed out were loss of control of images on the Internet, a copyright registration system that does not work for the visual arts industries, and the fact that the only option for legal enforcement is in federal court which is simply not a feasible option for the vast majority of creators. Here is the handout that was given at the event that outlined our priorities. 

PPA CEO David Trust moderated the panel discussion. He asked our speakers to offer solutions to these issues. One solution presented by several panelists was a small claims process for copyright enforcement. 

"If we don't implement a small claims process for copyright enforcement, even if a perfect registration system is created, it will be irrelevant for small business creators for whom it's not feasible to sue in federal court," said Mary Fisk-Taylor who is co-owner of Hayes & Fisk Photography and a Member of the Board of Directors for PPA.

All of the panelists agreed that it is crucial to make improvements to the copyright registration process and to modernize the U.S. copyright office.

The audience was intrigued by the discussion and asked important questions to make sure that they had full understanding of the issues. Public misconception of copyright even extends to Capitol Hill. One question asked was, "What exactly is copyright? What does your copyright do for you?" This gave our panel the opportunity to educate the audience on the most fundamental aspect of this topic - what is copyright - which is truly not understood at all by too many.

Recently, you may have read an article in the Washington Post, an op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about an alarming photography trend - people taking selfies, professional portraits and videos on train tracks and trestles. Since 2011, 13 people have been killed and four injured while taking photos or videos on the tracks. Pedestrian rail trespassing is the leading cause of rail-related deaths each year; 483 were killed in 2014 in the U.S. and more than 2,100 died on the tracks in the last four years, according to preliminary government statistics.

Operation Lifesaver has been working to discourage this photography practice for years, via outreach to the news media, letter-writing campaigns and direct outreach to photographers, and co-hosting regular webinars with Professional Photographers of America raise the awareness and level of education on railroad photography dos and don'ts. Railroads have been active on this issue as well; for example, Union Pacific Railroad has created public service messages explaining why train tracks are the wrong place for senior photos.

Last week, Operation Lifesaver and PPA partnered on a free webinar for photographers, "Safety First: Photography Near Tracks and Trains". The recording of the webinar will be a free resource for all photographers.

Operation Lifesaver is working on some cool animated public service announcements aimed at professional photographers and selfie-takers, slated for release next month. Stay tuned for those... they can be useful to share with clients too!

And of course, there's the ongoing See Tracks? Think Train! public awareness campaign, developed with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the railroad industry. It offers information and resources to raise awareness about safety near tracks and trains.

How can you help stop this dangerous trend?

First, talk with your friends and family about why photographing on train tracks is a seriously bad idea:
  • Freight trains don't run on a schedule - always expect a train on any track, in either direction, at any time. 
  • Because of their size and weight, trains can't stop quickly to avoid a person or object on the tracks. 
  • Freight and passenger trains are faster and quieter than you think, and they overhang the tracks by at least three feet on both sides.
  • Railroad tracks, trestles, yards and equipment are private property. Not only is it illegal to trespass, but the offenders are subject to arrest and fine.

Second, share these graphics on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and other social media channels.

Use the hashtags #NoPhotosOnTrainTracks and #SeeTracksThinkTrain.

Thank you for helping stop these preventable tragedies. Together, we can save lives.


By John Owens

DTrust.pngPPA's CEO David Trust was a guest on The PhotoTellers podcast with host Bill Ramsey to discuss The State of Professional Photography in America.

Before you get all doom and gloom, give it a listen! Bill and David discuss where things are now as well as what photographers can expect from the recent movement toward new copyright law in Congress. They also dive deep into the business of photography and how PPA helps the industry. 

Take a look at some of the topics covered below:

  • What is the future of professional photography in America? Are things as bad as people are saying?
  • Is copyright really in jeopardy? What's going on in Congress & the possibility of changing copyright law?
  • What are the biggest issues facing professional photographers?
  • What is the biggest business mistake photographers make?
  • The availability of "malpractice" insurance for a photographer.
  • The lifespan of a low-priced photographer entering the market today.
  • How to speak to potential clients so that they'll be willing to share some of their "pot of money" with you.
  • How to move from a "photographer hired to do a job" to "MY family photographer!"

It's a discussion that serves the interest of any photographer. It's perfect for background noise while you're in the throes of editing! Or set aside a half hour and give it your full attention.

You can listen to the podcast here, and if you have some extra time, there's another one with PPA president Michael Timmons linked on the page!

John_3197_1.JPGJohn Owens is PPA's resident wordsmith. Know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words? That's where he comes in. The Connecticut transplant and (still) avid Hartford Whalers fan is an aspiring adventurist/novelist/racer on a lifelong quest to find the best trails, brews and burger.


By John Owens

Millenials Are Part of A Lost Generation


We are raising a generation of young adults who have been conditioned to not print, yet the public values photography more than ever. People take pictures of everything. EVERYTHING! The sunset, your pets, your food #brunch #noms, yet they don't leave your phone. OK, sure, you uploaded them to the cloud, but where do they go? And how do you know the cloud is safe?

Family heirlooms are becoming far too literally a thing of the past. Our current generation lacks the portraits on the wall. We have Facebook albums and Instagram feeds and CDs in a drawer, but honestly, when is the last time you printed a picture? Or had a family portrait professionally taken and ordered prints? It's a problem facing the photographic community, and the reason the biggest print labs in the industry convened at PPA headquarters in Atlanta for the Printing in Professional Photography Summit.

White House Custom  Colour and Miller's Professional Imaging, H+H, Simply Color, Tyndell Photographic, Hahnemuhle, Kodak Alaris, GW Molding, Finao and American Color Imaging, BWC Photo Imaging, Marathon Press and even Canon had representatives on hand to discuss the lost art of the printed portrait and how to find it again, both for photographers and consumers.

By Lindsey Forson

Commercial use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, continues to be a hot issue on Capitol Hill.

While we anxiously await the FAA's approval on new regulations for small UAS operations, things continue to move forward. Last week, Senator Cory Booker (New Jersey) and Senator John Hoeven (North Dakota) introduced the Commercial UAS Modernization Act (download it here: 265083514-UAS-Modernization-Act-of-2015.pdf) to the U.S. Senate. This legislation has not yet become law and would not replace the forthcoming rule from the FAA, but it could serve in the interim.   

If the Commercial UAS Modernization Act becomes law, it would make it legal to use UAS for commercial purposes within specified regulations. The Act would also accelerate the process of incorporating commercial UAS use into the current framework. If passed, the FAA would be required to act very quickly to establish the knowledge test and certification process for commercial UAS operators.

For an update on the FAA rulemaking process, check out PPA's past coverage of the issue. We will keep you updated on the progress of the Commercial UAS Modernization Act on the Hill!

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. 



Like every month, PPA is back on Washington to advocate with legislators for your photography rights! Small business owners are often overlooked by the law, but PPA is on the Hill to make sure photographers are accounted for in the upcoming new copyright legislation.

Yesterday, PPA's advocacy team met with Corey Cooke and Joe Hartz who both serve on the Hill as Counsel to the House Small Business Committee. 

"We discussed various issues affecting small photography businesses including copyright issues, health care concerns, and drone photography," said Lindsey Forson, PPA's copyright & government affairs coordinator. "This introductory meeting made sure these important people on the Hill know who PPA is and what issues are important to the 28,000+ photographers and small business owners PPA represents. The goal is to forge positive relationships with those looking out for the concerns of small business owners like photographers."

Today's agenda includes meetings with:

  • The Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator

"There is a new coordinator in place and we want to establish a relationship with the office and make sure they are thinking about small business copyright issues," said Forson.

  • The U.S. Copyright Office

To discuss the Copyright review process.


James Williams, the Federal Aviation Administration's Chief of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration, announced during a panel discussion Monday, May 4, that a final rule on the new regulations for small drone operation will most likely be made within the next 16 months. 

Of course 16 months might not sound ideal, as we would like for drone regulations to be improved now. However, the announcement of a time frame is a positive development. Additionally, given the complexity of the FAA as a federal agency and that just last month they received thousands of comments on their proposed regulations, 16 months or less is probably a better than what we could hope for in terms of a timeline. At PPA, we are confident that the new rule will make drone photography a feasible option for professional photographers.

Here is Williams' full statement:

"The standard timeline from the completion of a comment period to federal rule is 16 months. I believe that the FAA will do everything within its power to meet that timeline or beat it. It is a fairly complex rule and there are a lot of comments that have to be resolved, and it will take some time to do it. But it's an administrator-level priority to get this done, and I believe this interest is shared all the way up the chain inside the executive branch. I'm confident it will move forward as fast as humanly possible."

This statement follows last month's progress on new drone regulations. We will continue to keep you up to date as the situation develops!

With PPA, Be More In The Know.

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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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By: Lauren Walters

How do you compete with amateur photographers? You have good resources at PPA to help! The See The Difference consumer-focused campaign aims at showing consumers "the difference" when evaluating photographers...and realize the importance of hiring a pro like you. It may seem hard to differentiate yourself, but you can stand out from the crowd by putting the tools and resources PPA developed for its members to work for you. This See The Difference toolbox can show your clients the difference it makes when hiring a PPA photographer. If you are with PPA, you can download videos, logos, customizable brochures, and other marketing materials to educate your clients. It's marketing help and sales pitch that support YOU as PPA photographers.

The video below is a reminder that when it comes to weddings, the day happens so quickly that you barely remember all the details. A PPA photographer not only stays focused, but captures the emotion - not just the composition. (If you do not photograph weddings, no worries: there are more videos for other specialties on the See The Difference Resource page!)

Watch this video then consider sharing it with your wedding clients so they can see why they should hire a PPA photographer like you!


There are a lot more videos on the See The Difference Resources page including some showing the importance of hiring professional Family and High School Senior photographers. If you're a PPA photographer, grab the embed codes for your own website today. There are other resources you can download/embed/use and share to spread the work and make a more compelling case for your professional status:

  •         logos
  •          brochures
  •          side-by-side comparisons
  •          Facebook tab
  •          other tools

Go ahead, show the difference hiring a professional photographer makes. Remember: the more photographers spread the word, the more successful and more powerful the "See The Difference" message becomes, which benefits ALL professional photographers! 

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the PPA Advocacy category.

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