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PPA Makes a Fall Visit to Washington

Last week, PPA's Copyright and Government Affairs department met with a series of committees and subcommittees on the Hill in order to help determine future political strategy. 

A big part of the discussions in the committees was commercial policy for a pretty polarizing and popular topic of late. You guessed it--drones! PPA argued for exemptions to be made for PPA photographers in regards to the use of drones.

It's worth noting that midterm elections happen November 4th and there will be a lame duck session after that to an undetermined time. A lame duck session occurs when Congress meets with elected successors post-midterm elections but before the successor's term begins. Because it is unknown who will be elected, it is difficult to forecast exactly what will happen in a lame duck session. 

However, Tom Chapman, Counsel to the Subcommittee on Aviation, Safety, and Security, thought it was likely that significant change in drone policy could occur as early as the lame duck session. Specifically, things could change in response to the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2012 which instructed the FAA to safely introduce drones into the national air space. This change in policy is forecasted as a result of the current influx of drone exemption applications that the FAA has recently received. While commercial drone use is illegal, the FAA allows exemptions to be applied for under §333 of the 2012 Act

So as it stands, the use of drones is still technically illegal, so use at your own risk! We will keep you updated as the situation develops. 

Another central issue with copyright policy is that there is no small claims remedial process. Because of the disenfranchisement of all people in federal court, the Copyright Office agreed with PPA that there needs to be a type of federal small claims court, which would thereby allow for copyright claims to be made without an attorney. PPA argued this is necessary to help all persons through the legal system. 

PPA has long stressed the importance of a small claims court for federal suits and the proposal of a federal small claims court was generally well received. How legislators will attempt to go about this is still up for debate due to constitutional conflicts, particularly in reference to Article III of the Constitution.  

PPA will continue to be a voice for photographers on Capitol Hill. Have an issue you think we need to address? Please let us know!

PPA CEO David Trust goes up to Washington whenever he can to meet with people like Howard Coble (R-NC) to advocate for photographers' copyrights. But that doesn't mean that the action stops when he returns to Atlanta. Now that PPA partners with the Nickles Group, PPA is more active and knowledgeable than ever before.

With these new abilities (thanks Nickles Group!), we can let you know who is saying what to whom and where. That being said; here's the latest scoop from the Hill! 

The House Judiciary Committee recently held a copyright hearing with several testimonies from experts. Here's three of those testimonies and what it means for photographers!

1). All artists benefit from copyright advocacy! We got a good example with Rick Carnes, of the Songwriters Guild of America, arguing for a balance between fair use of works and protection for high volume producers. He stood by the current fair use doctrine that is in place in Title 17 of the U.S. Code which dictates the non-infringing uses of copyrighted works. However, he also advocated for workable remedies for small claims when copyrighted works are stolen. Ideally, this could mean for photographers that they wouldn't have to go to federal court and be required to have (very costly) legal representation.

2). Remember the 70 years post-mortem, 120 years post-creation, or 95 years post-publication rules for copyright protection? Michael Carroll, a professor at American University Washington College of Law, argued that the current copyright term should not be extended further. Thomas Sydnor, of the American Enterprise Institute, agreed, and finds that there is little to no benefit in continuing to extend the copyright term in regards to small, medium, or large businesses. 

Over the last fifty years, the copyright term has been extended. Most notably it has been extended whenever the copyright for Mickey Mouse is about to enter the public domain. Would anyone like to guess who is behind this? That's right, Disney. The Hollywood and Disney lobby have poured huge amounts of money into ensuring the extension of the copyright term over the last fifty years. 

The bearings that this has on photographers are non-particular. Meaning, anyone who has ever owned a copyright is affected by this change in the same way. Once you die, your dictated heir is not going have entitlements to the copyright(s) for as long. While this is non-particular to photographers, the fact that this discussion has made headway in the legal debate represents a dramatic shift away from what is known as the Disney Curve. The Disney Curve has dominated the extension of the copyright term with the sole intent of keeping the figure of Mickey Mouse out of the public domain. If the status quo on this were to change, it would represent one of the greatest fundamental shifts in copyright policy in the last 50 years 

3). Karyn Clagget, of the U.S. Copyright Office, thoroughly argued that visual artists should be able to receive compensation relative to the increase in value over time as opposed to a mere flat rate. For photographers, this would mean that as your work grows in value, you'd be compensated accordingly. Royalty claims can be made with the proper contracts on anything created with a copyright. For more information on how you can control royalties, review our limited usage contract under Copyright Resources on our website!

 The House of Representatives Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet heard another round of testimonials addressing the need to remedy current issues within the Copyright Law (and there are many). Here's how this hearing relates to our members:

1). Longtime PPA friend Steven Tepp, of Sentinel Worldwide, made the case that there were significant problems in the current copyright remedies legal environment. He argued for higher available statutory damages, since awarded damages are currently at a historical low point. He also argued for harsher penalties that could function better as a preventative measure as well as a higher top-end of possible monetary compensation for infringement cases.

This goes along with the availability for small claims courts for copyright cases. Though, instead of focusing on the methods of how damages are acquired, Tepp choose to spoke about altering the available results for whichever court might make a ruling on this. Remember though, the small claims court doesn't exist (yet). Let's hope his testimonial opened some eyes and ears on the Hill.

2). Nancy Wolff, partner at Cowan, Debaets, Abrahams & Shepard LLP, supported the U.S. Copyright Office's report on small claims recommendations. In support of this report, she argued for the ability to bring small claims cases to a court without the need of expensive legal representation and a procedure that lowers the plaintiffs' expenses relating to any sort of legal action.

Both Tepp and Wolff are attempting to streamline legal processes for high volume visual artists like photographers. Too often times, infringed-upon artists can do very little simply because it quickly becomes cost-prohibitive to pursue legal action, even if your business has been damaged. Hopefully, these testimonies will help our U.S. Representatives understand that things do need to change!

The above testimonies and arguments contribute to enlightening those who can make these changes and will help shape the way new copyright laws are made. Each testimony is a small piece of the giant puzzle that is a Law being passed. We'll keep you updated anytime we hear more from Washington!

PPA's CEO David Trust is in Washington D.C. shaking hands and talking photography with legislators to keep things moving toward new copyright law. He's out there in the trenches for you all! Told you we've got your back!

He'll be passing along updates over the next couple of days which we will post here as a sort of semi-live, "PPA on the Copyright Frontlines" diary.

And look for a recap after he returns to HQ here in Atlanta!

Monday, July 7, 1:26 p.m.

Just had a great meeting with Gayle Osterberg, Director of Communications for the Library of Congress. She reiterated the importance and popularity of the photography collections at the Library. She also presented some good ideas about how PPA can work more proactively with the Library to help educate Congress about the photographic industry. Gayle is a longtime friend of PPA and industry supporter. It's good to have an ally like her working for PPA members! 

Monday, July 7, 5:50 p.m.

Had a great meeting this afternoon with Jennifer Choudhry, Legislative Director for Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia. Collins is rapidly becoming the voice of Copyright on Capitol Hill and has been very aggressive in promoting and defending creator rights--not just in Georgia but across the country. The fact that PPA headquarters in downtown Atlanta is in such close proximity to Collins' district (about 45 minutes north of Atlanta) is a plus. Look for more news in the future--we have some special plans brewing for the pro-copyright congressman.

Tuesday, July 8, 8:58 a.m.

We have a busy day planned today on Capitol Hill: Five copyright meetings scheduled with members of Congress from Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, California, and North Carolina and a lunch with David Whitney, Chief Counsel for the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property. It is very hot here, but will be a great day as PPA works to advance the cause of photographers in Washington D.C. 

[Don't forget you can contact your local legislator too!] 

Tuesday, July 8, 4:42 p.m.

Met with Congressman Howard Coble (R-6th North Carolina) to discuss the House Judiciary copyright review. Mr. Coble is a key player in legislation related to copyright as he is the current Chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on Intellectual Property as well as the Co-Chair of the Creative Rights Caucus. David artfully made the case for a balanced view of copyright to ensure that the voices of the small businesses and solo-practitioners in the creative community, such as photographers, are heard.

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Tuesday, July 8, 5:19 p.m.

David Trust converses with PPA consultant Cindi Tripodi, partner with the Nickles Group, outside of the Capitol after a successful day of Hill meetings.

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If you weren't watching R Street's Hangout about copyright reform last week, you were missing a seriously concerning conversation.

The question of the day was "Has copyright gone too far?" 

R Street invited Tom W. Bell, author of the book Intellectual Privilege, Derek Khanna of R Street, Mitch Stoltz of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Ryan Radia of the Competitive Enterprise Institute to express their opinions. The discussion began with each of the panelists introducing their take on modern copyright law, and what he thought should be done about them. 

While each panelist agreed that modern copyright law needed to be worked on, they disagreed on what needed to be fixed - Bell argued for "the founders' idea of copyright," in reference to the Copyright Act of 1790 and soon the discussion turned to upholding outdated laws and applying them to modern society. Those in the online audience who asked questions about how this was working against the little guy - i.e., freelance writers, e-book authors, small creative business owners - were largely ignored, and their plight in fighting infringement was only briefly acknowledged. Some of the panelists even suggested that they shouldn't have property-like protections for their work because it would stifle others' creativity.

Um, excuse me?

But the talk ended on a note that everyone could agree on: "We can do better than what we have," Bell said.

Yes, indeed! But it's up to us to initiate this change. And when we say 'us', we mean all of us image creators, photographers, artists at large! As you know, PPA is representing photographers on Capitol Hill, month after month, advocating for small business copyright owners. You should join the movement for copyright reform so that things CAN move forward sooner than later. How? Simply letting your opinion known to your local representative (this hyperlink will help you identify who's yours!) You may think that your impact is a small water droplet, but if we ALL take a moment to tell them why it's important to protect our works, we'll be that much more. If you don't quite know what to say, you can check back to the blog for a template letter you can use. After all, what is an ocean but a multitude of drops? In the mean time, here are some easy ways to help you contact Congress!


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And the copyright movement rolls on! PPA CEO David Trust sent us some quick updates before hopping on a plane to return to PPA HQ from Washington.

Today, Trust met with Joe Russo, Coalitions Director for the House Judiciary Committee. Says David: "He is very receptive of our message and feels House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte will work hard to protect the rights of small business copyright holders." 

Trust then met with Tommy Binion, Legislative Director for Congressman Steve King, and says, "He loves our 'copyright-holder-next-door' approach, and was very interested in our message."

As part of this visit, Trust also  delivered post Orphan Works Roundtable comments on behalf of photographic and graphic arts associations. The comments also announced the formation of the Picture Licensing Universal System (PLUS) Coalition, made up of stakeholders from creative communities, and led by PPA. The Coalition  was created to provide equity and representation for all industries involved in creating, distributing, using and preserving images. Trust took the lead on authoring the group's comments, which you can read in full.

The document is a bit long, but demonstrates the great importance of this legislation for creators and small business owners.

PPA will continue to provide updates on the ongoing copyright movement. Check back for the latest!




PPA is proud to announce a HUGE agreement the Nickles Group to help us out on Capitol Hill. This will put us front and center during the ongoing copyright discussion at the most critical time. Momentum is really building toward that Next Great Copyright Act and we will now be more plugged in than ever. 


In fact, with the Nickles Group, we're now the only photography association with a full-time presence! This agreement is a really big deal and you need to know about it.


Here is the press release in its entirety:

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Professional Photographers of America (PPA) announced today it has reached an agreement with The Nickles Group, LLC, to represent PPA on Capitol Hill. The Nickles Group will help the association's lobbying efforts for photographers' copyrights.

Through the Nickles Group, one of the preeminent lobbying firms on the Hill, PPA will be at the center of the action on a daily basis. Using the Nickles Group's extensive network, PPA will make introductions, build relationships and arrange meetings with key players and also create opportunities to testify at Congressional hearings. The partnership looks to build upon the strong foundation PPA has established in Washington over the past 15 years.

Founded in 2005, the Nickles Group brings together an accomplished team of public policy advocates and experts to provide strategic advice, policy development and political navigation for clients seeking to engage in the federal legislative or executive process.

"We're pleased to join forces with the PPA to be an important advocate for the rights of photographers and other creators," said Don Nickles, chairman and CEO of The Nickles Group. "With copyright issues becoming more complex as Congress reviews the laws that govern rights, we look forward to partnering with PPA and impacting policy for the better."

Nickles, a Senator for the state of Oklahoma from 1981 to 2005 certainly knows his way around the Hill. In his tenure, Nickles built a legacy of advancing free enterprise causes, from natural gas deregulation and repeat of the windfall profits tax in the 1980s, to repeal of onerous ergonomics regulation and the fight against federalized healthcare during the Clinton Administration. He was the author of the Congressional Review Act and the Child Citizenship Act, and the principal sponsor of President Bush's economic growth package in 2003, which cut capital gains and corporate dividend taxes to 15 percent.

Thanks to this agreement PPA now has the ability to put its members front and center, a coup for PPA given the recent discussions on orphan works and the U.S. Copyright office's push for the Next Great Copyright Act. 

"This could not come at a better time for us," said David Trust, CEO of PPA. "We are entering one of the most critical eras in the history of copyright law. This relationship with the Nickles Group will ensure that PPA members, and photographers in general, will have an increased position in the copyright discussion on Capitol Hill."

The Nickles Group represents the likes of the Comcast, Eli Lilly and Company, Exxon Mobil and now PPA. The agreement makes PPA the only professional photography association with a full-time presence on Capitol Hill.

In addition to having the photography world's only copyright and government affairs department, PPA provides a wealth of resources for photographers online, including sample contracts and model releases. For more information, visit ppa.com/copyright.

 

Of course, as the Nickles Group reports back to us, we will forward the info on to you! Things are really cooking up there in Washington. BE MORE!

 

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Yesterday, PPA's board of directors visited with key staffers and senators on Capitol Hill to voice their concerns on copyright protection. You can view yesterday's post on their visit to get caught up. 

Maria Matthews, manager of PPA's copyright and government affairs department is back with an update on what went down!

 

We talked, they listened!

On behalf of PPA members and professional photographers everywhere, an excited PPA board of directors spent their Tuesday in our nation's capita. They met with chief counsels, judiciary aides and senators and told their story. They explained the impact copyright theft can have on their business and families--as well as the potential economic impact for their state--and light bulbs went on.

The board asked staffers and senators to deliver this message to the senate: Copyright affects more than just big industry; it impacts mom-and-pop businesses in every corner of their state. Many of the offices we met with agreed that strong copyright laws are essential to ensuring a thriving creative community. They also admitted that most of their efforts on the intellectual property front as of late have been focused on patent and not copyright reform--something they will be looking to remedy!

This visit was great progress for the copyright debate. Next up: Keep lobbying to get the talk moving toward action on the senate!

The board had a great time in D.C. and shared their visit all over social media. Check out their posts below.

(Click the images to view the original posts.)

 

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PPA will continue to provide updates on the ongoing copyright movement. Things are getting really exciting!

Want a copyright update? You got it!

PPA's board of directors is back on Capitol Hill today to visit U.S. Senate offices. They're returning to drive home a message--that strong copyright laws are critical to the small business photographer.

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The board takes to the Hill during a very active period in the copyright reform efforts.  While there have been a number of recent roundtables hosted by the U.S. Copyright Office and regular copyright themed hearings held by the House of Representatives, activity on the copyright front has been relatively quiet on the Senate side.

But no longer! Each board member will meet with at least one of their home state's senators and offer firsthand insight on what it means to be a professional photographer in today's world. Hopefully hearing about the importance of strong copyright laws directly from working photographers that are among their constituency will urge these senators to champion the cause within the Senate. And from there... some new legislation!

And don't forget, while the board is on the hill advocating for your copyrights, you can take action too! Sign up to participate in Copyright Awareness Month and spread the word.

Look for a recap from the board's visit to Capitol Hill soon!

 

 

 

3/17/14 UPDATE

Maria Matthews was a last-minute replacement for David Trust and spoke on Capitol Hill Monday and Tuesday. She's back with a report on what went down! And boy, it sounds like organizations on every side of the debate are as passionate as ever! Get caught up and read her latest update at the bottom!

By: Maria Matthews, manager of PPA's Copyright & Government Affairs department

On March 10-11, the debate over "orphan works" will remerge during the ongoing copyright review process. PPA's CEO David Trust is heading to Capitol Hill to make sure photographers have a seat at the table.

"Orphan works" are loosely defined as copyright-protected material where the copyright owner is unknown or cannot be located. The vast majority of these "orphans" are photographs and other works of visual arts. How the public can make use of these "orphans" has been debated on Capitol Hill for almost a decade.

The purpose of the two-day roundtable, hosted by the U.S. Copyright Office, is to gather insight on potential legislative solutions and discuss orphan works in the context of new technology and mass digitization efforts.

PPA has been involved in the orphan works debate since the Copyright Office began its initial study of the issue in 2005. Over the years we have testified before Congress, worked closely with Copyright Office officials, key Congressional Leaders and their staff to ensure that photographers concerns were incorporated into any future law. 

The closest an orphan works bill came to being enacted was in 2009 when the "Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act" was passed by the Senate. The bill did not make it out of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over copyright matters, as it greatly differed from the legislative language they proposed. Since then there was little activity on this front until the issue was incorporated into the Register of Copyright's "Priorities and Special Projects" outline.

Stay tuned for an update on "orphan works" and related legislative activity following our return from Capitol Hill!

3/5/2014 UPDATE: 

We've got more details for you!

David Trust will sit on two panels at next week's Orphan Works Roundtable:

1. "The types of works subject to any orphan works legislation, including issues related specifically to photographs."

2. "Remedies and procedures regarding orphan works".

Trust will speak on behalf of professional photographers during a session on the treatment of "orphaned" photographs in any legislative language to be drafted. He will also address remedies and procedures relating to orphan works. 

Major stakeholders in the copyright review efforts who represent interests on both side of the orphan works debate will be present at the meeting. Fellow visual arts organizations and pro-copyright scholars from copyright-friendly organizations like the PLUS Coalition and university research centers will speak on behalf of creators. On the opposite side of the table are organizations that represent the interests of potential "orphan works" users, including museums, libraries and internet freedoms groups.

Due to the high demand from prospective participants, panelists were limited to two of nine possible sessions. PPA signed up for nearly all of them, but luckily wound up in two of our highest listed priorities. The Copyright Office will hold an open comment period at the conclusion of the second day to ensure all voices are heard.  

That's the latest! We'll provide a recap once we return. As always, PPA's got your back!


3/12/14 UPDATE:

There's plenty to talk about from a busy couple days on Capitol Hill! Here are some highlights:

In reframing the orphan works debate, the Copyright Office is considering giving photographs and other works of visual arts special treatment as they make their recommendations to Congress. This "special treatment" could exclude photographs from the types of works that can be considered "orphaned." This will help raise the bar for determining when a photograph is an "orphan."  

This has the potential to be great news for photographers. We appreciate the Copyright Office's recognition of the unique nature of photographs and photographers and agree that exempting photographs from orphan works legislation makes sense. This could facilitate progress toward meaningful legislation.

This new way of thinking stems from the fact that the very technologies that have helped advance the profession often separate photographers from their images. This refers specifically to when metadata and watermarks get stripped away (either intentionally or accidentally) as files are transferred, posted online or cropped for publication. 

If photographs are included in orphan works legislation, the language must be thorough and it cannot make compensation inaccessible, as we outlined in our written comments.

There has also been some progress to ensure that copyright owners whose works were designated "orphan works" are properly compensated when they come forward following its use. Early versions of orphan works bills included a great deal of protection for the would-be infringer, preventing the copyright owner from collecting any form of compensation. But there is now some movement in favor of language to protect copyright owners as well.

Many representatives from the user community have expressed interest in incorporating language that would allow copyright owners to receive reasonable compensation, set according to market value. Any legislation that does not protect the legitimate interests of the right holder by ensuring reasonable compensation for the use of their creative works denies them equal treatment as provided by law.

In fact, any quest for compensation has to be applied in conjunction with a small claims process that makes it feasible for copyright owners to assert and defend their rights.  Being able to pursue an infringement outside the federal court system will take into account the burden and expense of waging a federal lawsuit. This would ultimately prevent a photographer from collecting even the most modest amount of money.

The mass digitization of copyrighted works (like photographs) was also a major topic of discussion. Two arguments that were repeated throughout both days centered on a benefit to the "public good" and the need to "satisfy their mission." But if all creations are inherently free to use there's no incentive for creators to continue to create!

The Copyright Office concluded the sessions by inviting participants to submit parting thoughts during an open comment period. We will digest the ideas shared and provide additional feedback to ensure photographer's needs are well represented in the recommendations the Copyright Office offers to Congress.

The ultimate goal of this roundtable and any future "fact finding" sessions, roundtables, comment periods, etc. will be to issue an updated report on the state of orphaned works, including what aspects should be legislated and what aspects should be left to administrative rules making.

Of course, as the situation develops, we will keep you all posted!

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Last week, Maria Matthews, PPA's Copyright & Government Affairs manager gave us an update from Capitol Hill.

Now, PPA received a shout out on the matter in The New York Times!

In "Photographers Band Together to Protect Work in Fair Use Cases," author Patricia Cohen outlines the Capitol Hill effort in detail and names a few of the major players, including PPA. Ms. Cohen gives great insight to photographer's battle against Fair Use, using  individual cases as examples.

She writes:

"Technological advances, shifting artistic values and dizzying spikes in art prices have turned the world of visual arts into a boxing ring for intellectual-property rights disputes. Photographers, in particular, are complaining not only that their work is being stolen by other artists, but also that their ability to create new work related to their originals is also being compromised."

The problem lies in the broadness of "Fair Use" itself.

"Fair use started out as an exception to copyright law," Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers, said. "Now it seems that copyright is the exception to fair use."

A more fine line must be drawn in the sand to determine what stands as work "inspired by" an original image and what counts as a violation of the photographer's copyrights. PPA remains a major voice to be heard on the matter, with exciting movement toward "the next great copyright law" underway. Look for another update on PPA's contributions to the copyright effort on Capitol Hill in mid-March!

 

Article originally appeared online at the New York Times, Feb. 21. Read the full article here.

 



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