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Why Modernize the U.S. Copyright Office? - PPA Today

Why Modernize the U.S. Copyright Office?

by Lindsey Forson

Professional photography is undoubtedly an art form. But the images you create are so much more than your art - they are your meal ticket... your livelihood... your blood, sweat, and tears. This is why copyright protection is so important to photographers, and this is why PPA works so hard to fight for strong and effective copyright laws.
Based on the level of importance for small-business copyright owners along with considerations of feasibility, PPA has narrowed down three primary priorities for legislative action:

1.  The creation of a small claims option for copyright enforcement

2.  Modifications to the current copyright registration process to improve functionality and have more photographers register their work

3.  Modernization of the United States Copyright Office

If you have kept up with our advocacy updates throughout the past year, you have heard about these priorities before. It is increasingly apparent that updates are underway. There is a real possibility that legislation will advance as soon as this year! Therefore, the time has also come for all photographers to form a (much) deeper insight into what each of these issues could mean for their businesses and why they are worthy of your support.
So why modernize the United States Copyright Office? Technological advancements have occurred at a much quicker rate than the federal government has been able to keep up with. This has become a big issue and greatly affects creators like you. As incredible as it seems, the U.S. Copyright Office is simply not properly equipped to operate in today's world and effectively meet your copyright needs. Its main three needs are: adequate administrative capacity, authority, and accountability. All of which are currently lacking, at least to a certain degree.

As is, the U.S. Copyright Office is not a federal agency. It is an office situated within the Library of Congress (LOC) and is really more like one department within a larger agency. This means that the Copyright Office's systems and processes are tied to the LOC's. Most people understand that the needs of the millions of creators throughout our nation who deal with copyright issues are very different than the needs of a library (a very important library, but a library nonetheless). We are talking about IT needs, staffing needs, and budgeting needs - just to name a few.

The Copyright Office is responsible for administering Copyright Law in our country and yet it currently does not have the administrative capacity to keep up! Much of this issue stems from its funding being appropriated from a small portion of the LOC's budget. Just imagine if Congress tasked it with administering the processes for copyright small claims (as we hope it will be). The office does not have the technological systems, staff, nor budget needed to administer the law as it currently stands, much less to implement major changes in policy and processes.
This also triggers a lack of authority and accountability. As one would expect, the U.S. Copyright Office is staffed with copyright experts. While the current head of the Office whose title is the "Register of Copyrights" is extremely supportive of creator's rights, she and her staff do not have the authority to operate at their discretion, nor do they directly answer to Congress! Congress is unable to hold an Office responsible for its shortcomings when that Office is not in complete control of its own systems, budgets, staff, and operations. Do you see the dilemma? Without autonomy there is no accountability.
This autonomy for the Copyright Office is crucial and this is why the term "modernizing" the Copyright Office is used to describe legislation that would remove the Office from under the control of the LOC and have Congress appropriate funds to it directly. The LOC and the Copyright Office would still be expected to work cooperatively on joint tasks, such as creating a representative sample of American creations, but the Copyright Office would finally have the needed autonomy to move forward with its own changes.

You can see why this issue is so widely supported among the creative community. This modernization process is essential to ensuring the Copyright Office can effectively administer copyright law and implement changes. PPA believes that without modernization the U.S. Copyright Office will continue to fall behind the industries, business owners, and public it supports.

This legislative issue is likely to be the first to advance. The Committee is already hashing out the details of modernization, and multiple drafts of a bill have been discussed thus far. Keep a close eye on PPA's Advocacy updates so you know when your help is needed. Also know that if/when a vote is scheduled for a modernization bill, PPA will call on photographers nation-wide.
For more questions about modernization or other copyright advocacy efforts, please contact the PPA Copyright & Government Affairs Department at 800-786-6277 or email CopyrightDefense @ Be More Informed.

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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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on February 12, 2016 6:17 PM.

Canadian Copyrights, the PRINT. Movement and Being a Great Assistant: Our Top 10 Blogs from 2/5-12 was the previous entry in this blog.

New Imaging USA 2016 Video! Learn about: PRINT: The Movement pt 2 is the next entry in this blog.

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