Capitol Hill Round-up - Fall 2013 - PPA Today
Capitol Hill Round-up - Fall 2013
You know how we keep saying PPA has your back? Well we mean it. And our Copyright & Government Affairs department advocates for you members and professional photographers everywhere at the top--on Capitol Hill! Here is an update on what was learned from their latest visit, courtesy of Maria Matthews, department manager.
Copyright Talks Continue on Capitol Hill
Photographers and photography were at the center of a discussion by the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on our most recent visit to Capitol Hill. Just before Congress broke for their August recess, talks focused on the courts, intellectual property and the internet. While not photography-centric, the copyright debate is at the center of the subcommittee's September agenda, with three additional copyright hearings on everything from satellite regulations (i.e. the laws that allow networks to continue to broadcast your favorite shows) to highly specialized hearings on role of voluntary agreements.
During this time, PPA met with the Register of Copyrights as well as key Congressional leaders to stress the importance of strong copyright laws, and the need for accessible enforcement tools in order to protect your livelihood. Our message was received positively by every office we encountered. While we are encouraged by the efforts both the Copyright Office and the Subcommittee are taking to examine copyright statute as it currently exists, we are keeping a watchful eye on the unfolding debate to ensure that photographers are not forgotten.
Although the date has not yet been set, the Committee Chair has committed to hosting additional copyright-themed hearings prior to their December recess. In addition to the subcommittee's copyright-intensive schedule, we are also expecting the release of the Copyright Office's study on the Copyright Small Claims Process and possible improvements to the registration process.
National Park Service Releases Updated Rules & Fees
While Congress is plugging away at copyright, elsewhere on Capitol Hill the Department of the Interior (DOI) released updated "Special Use Permit" rules for still photography. The rules, which have been five years in the making, offer clarity on when a photographer would be required to seek a permit from a park superintendent prior to arriving for a session on park or other federal land. (Note: These rules also apply to areas managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service.)
Thanks to these revisions, photographers now have the benefit of knowing the rules no matter which type of federal land they visit. While a basic set of requirements have been streamlined across these agencies, photographers will need to contact the specific property (or visit its website) to find out if there are certain seasonal restrictions (i.e. winter road closures or peak traffic periods) that might require additional clearance and/or fees.
The revised permit guidelines now say still photographers do not require a permit unless they're using a model, props, or if there are additional circumstances that require the use of park resources. For example, the location is off limits to the general public or resources to minimize the effect of the shoot on general visitors. This means that if you're entering the park and intend to stay "on the beaten path" chances are you won't need a permit and shouldn't be stopped and asked for one.
When it comes to models, props, and sets, DOI also provided photographer-friendly definitions to these once confusing terms. "Models" are no longer considered portrait subjects like members of a wedding party or high school graduates. "Props and Sets" are now specifically defined as "items constructed or place on agency lands" and extends to backdrops, lights and tracks. Tripods, something previously included in this list are no longer deemed a "prop" if they are not used with any other equipment.
While we expect many photographers will now be exempt from permits because of the new definition of "model," we continue to have great concerns over the newly proposed fee structure. The addition of a $250 monthly permit for 1-3 (including the photographer) should prove helpful to those who frequently use National Parks in small groups. However, photographers must still contend with any "locations fees" that are required by the individual park. Again these fees are calculated based on the specific agency resources you'll need to complete the assignment as well as any seasonal restrictions that might be in place.
We are keeping an eye out for any additional fee studies and opportunities to offer input on the rulemaking process on behalf of the photographic industry. Given the improvements to the law made to date, we are hopeful DOI will implement additional photographer friendly measures as they solidify the updated rules.
Healthcare Rates Released October 1
Although the www.healthcare.gov website has been up and running for some time now, Oct. 1, 2013, will be the first time it will be 100% populated with the rate information for your state.
Check to see if your state has established its very own "healthcare marketplace." Many states are even already allowing those who could potentially qualify to be insured to shop policies and determine whether they're eligible for coverage. Simply visit the "Get Insurance" tab at www.healthcare.gov site and select your state to get started.
In addition to exploring your options October 1, you can also choose to purchase insurance. However, it is important to note that the policy will not take effect until January 1, 2014. During this initial implementation period, enrollment will extend through March 31, 2014. Even though the March 31, 2014, enrollment deadline has been set, there are certain special circumstances (i.e. marriage, relocation, birth of a child, etc.) that will allow you to modify your coverage or enroll for the very first time.
If you need more information about what's to come or if you're curious how the new laws apply to you, we encourage you to watch the three part healthcare webinar series hosted by Ross Pallay, of Pallay Insurance Agency, Inc., PPA's medical and dental insurance partner.
That's all for now! As soon as any new information regarding copyright becomes available we will be the first to let you know. We've said it before and we'll say it again--we've got your back!