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PPA Today: Copyright: May 2017 Archives

Copyright: May 2017 Archives

By Sidra Safri
Many photographers know that as soon as they press the shutter button on their camera, they fully own the copyrights to that image. 

Some photographers will take it one step further and register their images with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registering your images makes it easier to determine that you own the copyright, and allows the registration holder (you!) to claim increased statutory damages, and possibly attorney's fees, if your images are used, sold, or reprinted without your permission! 

In order to register your photographic work, you must go to the Copyright Office's Website and create a free account to fill out your registration application. Once you are logged in, you'll want to click on "Register a New Claim". From here, the website will walk you through what needs to happen to successfully register your work. You can also visit the Copyright Office's step by step guide here. 

Registration is an important step in protecting your copyright. And PPA encourages all professional photographers to do it as part of their regular workflow. However, due to how complex, archaic, time-consuming, and expensive the registration process can be (yes, we think the system needs to be improved!), many of you will systematically fail to register your work. But this can change if more copyright holders, like photographers, push to modernize the Copyright Office. 

If you agree that change needs to happen and the copyright registration system needs to match the 21st century's technology needs and volume, then sign up today to show your support as PPA leads a large  Grassroots Action Team to push for these changes to happen. We're currently 11,000 strong. Add your voice to help us create a louder message at

By Sidra Safri

Many photographers have complained about the archaic registration system of the Copyright Office, how long the process takes and, overall, how cumbersome it is. Thankfully, these complaints have not fallen on deaf ears. 

In 2013, the Copyright Office began looking into potential updates to the overall IT system that impacts the registration process. This research lead to the creation of a report stating it was necessary to create a better user-interface and more accurate public record.

On May 9th, 2017, the Copyright Office rolled out a pilot program for Bulk Submission of Claims to Copyright. This pilot program will serve a very small niche of creators, since it will only be available for literary works (such as fiction, nonfiction, autobiographies, etc.). Single literary works that have single authors, with all the work being owned and created by that single author, are eligible for the bulk registration program.

Even though this program is not available to photographers, the Copyright Office is taking a step in the right direction to make the process easier and faster. Through this pilot process they will be able to work out any issues that arise, and eventually (we hope) roll out the bulk submission process for all categories.

PPA will keep you updated as developments unfold, so stay tuned to for the latest. 

Want to get in on the ground floor of copyright reform? Sign up today and be a part of the PPA Grassroots Action Team at!

By Sidra Safri

In the world of Intellectual Property (IP) there are three main categories:

1. Patents
2. Trademarks
3. Copyright

These three categories are distinct in their own ways and work to protect their creator, inventor, or the company that made them or who they represent. All three (patents, trademarks, and copyrights) can be used together, but people largely tend to confuse the differences between Copyright and Trademark. 

A trademark can be wording, phrasing, slogan symbols, graphics or designs that help identify a brand or set them apart from others. A logo is a great example of a trademark. Trademarks do not expire after a set number of years, therefore giving them the ability to last forever as long as they are being used. You are not required to register a trademark with the United State Patent Office, but are encouraged to do so for added protection and benefit.

A copyright protects original creations that include literary works, performing arts, photographs, etc. and can be registered with the Copyright Office in the Library of Congress. Copyright protection is determined based on different factors such as when the content was created, was it created using a pseudonym or anonymously, or it was a work-for-hire. These protections can last from 50 years after the creator's death to 120 years after publication. 

Similar to a trademark, a copyright does not need to be registered but is encouraged for added protection and higher statutory damages. 

For more information and a more detailed breakdown of these three main categories of IP, visit the USPTO website. 

by Sidra Safri

As photographers we all understand the importance of the Copyright Office and everything it is meant to do for the world of copyright. However, besides being the protector of copyrights, the Office's other main purpose is to continuously provide Congress with the proper knowledge necessary to make decisions in the area of Intellectual Property. 

However, to fully understand the Copyright Office and how copyright law has evolved, it is necessary to go back to the early years of America. In 1787, during discussions for the Constitutional Convention, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 was added. It stated "the Congress shall have promote the process of science and useful arts, by securing for limited time to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." This law would go on to shape Copyright Law for many years to come.

Below is a short timeline of how both the Copyright Office and Copyright Law evolved. 

  • 1790: The first Copyright Act is passed and provides American creators with the ability to control when to print, reprint, or publish their work for up to 14 years, with the ability to renew for another 14 years. This was done to encourage creators to continue to add to society while giving them an incentive to do so. 
  • 1831: This was the first review of the Copyright Act. This revision allowed the protection of copyright to be extended to 28 years with the possibility to renew for another 14 years. This change was made to ensure American creators had the same, if not similar, protections as their European counterparts. 
  • 1870: This was the first revision of the Copyright Act. When the Copyright Office was first created it was up to each individual District Court to file copyright claims. However, with this revision, the office was moved from the District Courts into the Copyright Office, where it would remain. 
  • 1909: After another major review of the Copyright Act, the items that could be protected by copyright were increased to include more categories. This review also extended the renewal from 14 years to 28 years. During this time, many congressional members were trying to find a balance between allowing the creator to enjoy the benefits of their creation and also allowing the public to enjoy these creations. 
  • 1976:  After 67 years of no revisions to the Copyright Act, it was necessary to incorporate technological advancements, as well as to prepare to join the Berne Convention which was joined by our European counterparts in 1886. Also during this revision, copyright protection was extended to the life of the author plus 50 or 75 years if the work was done for hire and/or for unpublished works. 
  • 1992: An amendment was made to make copyright renewal automatic, and therefore really limited what items were joining the public domain. 
  • 1998: Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act extended protection from 50 years after the life of the creator to 70 years after the life of the creator. 
  • 1998: Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) brought some aspects of copyright law to the 90s that would address challenges many creators were facing, while attempting to regulate digital items. 
  • 1999: Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement: With infringement becoming so easy, it was necessary to find some way to deter this from happening. Congress approved a large increase in the minimum statutory damages. The minimums went from $500 to $700 and the maximums went from $20,000 to between $30,000 and $150,000 depending on intent. 
  • 2016: Small Claims bill is introduced by Representative Judy of Chu of California. Proposing an alternative method to pursuing infringement claims valued at less than $30,000. During this same year, Chairman Goodlatte circulated a white paper highlighting the importance of Small Clams and making it a priority for the upcoming year. 
  • 2017: Representative Goodlatte introduced H.R 1695 to turn the Register of Copyright into a Senate-confirmed, Presidential Appointee, therefore ensuring a person with ample copyright knowledge is able to run the copyright office, and have a certain degree of autonomy from the Library of Congress. This bill currently has been introduced in the Senate at S. 1010 and will be heading to committee shortly. 

As you can see, the history of copyright in the U.S. is a long and winding road. PPA is making sure YOUR rights are protected by being a constant presence on Capitol Hill during these exciting months. Be sure to sign up and show your support (and share with all your friends!) at 


Last week was a pretty crazy one on Capitol Hill (as they mostly are lately) and, lost in the shuffle, was the fact that the companion bill to H.R. 1695, the bill PPA's Grassroots Team lobbied to get through the House, has now been introduced in the Senate! 

"Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today introduced the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act, which makes the Register of Copyrights a presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed position. This legislation is the Senate companion to H.R. 1695, which passed the House of Representatives last week by an overwhelming vote of 378 to 48.  It is the product of bicameral, bipartisan discussions led by these Senators and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers.

The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act makes important changes to the selection process for the head of the U.S. Copyright Office, known as the Register of Copyrights.  Specifically, the legislation requires the Register to be nominated by the President of the United States and subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate.  It would limit the Register to a ten-year term that is renewable by another presidential nomination and Senate confirmation. The legislation would establish a panel consisting of Members of Congress and the Librarian of Congress to recommend at least three individuals to the President for the position. It would require that the Register be capable of identifying and supervising a Chief Information Officer or similar official responsible for managing information technology systems. Finally, the legislation clarifies that the mandatory deposit requirements for collection at the Library of Congress will remain the same.

Grassley, Feinstein, Leahy and Hatch look forward to working with the Senate Rules Committee on legislation to improve the selection process for the position of Register, and they remain committed to further efforts towards modernization of the Copyright Office.

Bill text is available HERE."

PPA will keep you updated every step along the way, as the Bill now goes to one of several Senate Committees vying for the chance to spearhead the Senate's changes to the House version of the bill.

Stay tuned and ready to activate by signing up for PPA's Grassroots Action Team at!


by Sidra Safri 

On April 26th the House of Representative passed H.R. 1695 with overwhelming bipartisan support. This is huge victory for not only the modernization of the Copyright Office (located within the Library of Congress, pictured here) but for photographers across this country. This would not be possible without the many letters photographers and creative artist sent, and the support of many Representatives, including Representative Chu (D-Ca), Representative Collins (R-GA), Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA), and Ranking Member Conyers (D-MI). 

It is important to remember, H.R 1695 getting passed the House of Representatives is only half the fight. The bill now heads to the Senate side, where it is going to be a much harder fight. The Senate will examine the bill in various committees and go through the bill with a fine tooth comb. It is also possible for the Senate to come up with its own version of H.R 1695, which will then have to head back to the House for a vote again. 

However the Senate decides to precede it is absolutely imperative to continue to send letters, but this time to our Senators. We need to make sure that the voices of photographers and other creative artists are heard as you demand for the Copyright Office to step into the 21st century.

Stay tuned for "Go" time in the Senate with those letters and calls. And be sure to sign everyone you know up at

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Copyright category from May 2017.

Copyright: April 2017 is the previous archive.

Copyright: June 2017 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

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