The copyright system in the United States, while not perfect, has worked well for many creators in the higher-income industries. The harsh reality is, however, that copyright in America does not work at all for small-business creators. The vast majority of creators have very little protection under the law because, without a massive income or corporate support, they have no real option for enforcement - and what good are rights when you can't actually enforce them?
Andrew is the perfect example of the small-business creator. He provides for his family by operating a small photography business through which he provides families in his community a product that will be cherished for generations to come. Andrew photographed an event for a local restaurateur and licensed images to the restaurant for specific marketing purposes.
The restaurant's PR firm distributed one of Andrew's images to a culinary magazine. The magazine then used the photo as the cover image of a monthly issue without Andrew's permission and without mention of either Andrew or his client. Andrew contacted the publisher and sent an invoice for an appropriate licensing fee. He was ignored. Andrew then had a cease and desist letter sent to the publisher on his behalf from his photographic association. Still, he received no response.
Andrew is now facing an impossible decision. He can hire an attorney and pursue this further, or choose to let it go altogether. Due to principle, Andrew does not want to let it go, but at this point, he's afraid he would actually have to sue the infringer to get any response or payment. Andrew estimates the value of this infringement at $2,500 which he feels is far too low to justify a lawsuit in federal court.
"It's a shame they will probably just get away with this," Andrew said. "Not facing any consequences just reinforces the behavior." Andrew believes the lack of copyright enforcement options available to small creators like him is the reason businesses and publications choose to infringe rather than secure proper licensing.
"Some sort of a small claims process is the only way creators like me will ever be able to get paid for infringing uses of their work," Andrew said.
Stories like these are the reason that a Small Claims process can be a game-changer for photographers and creative artists. It will help them enforce their copyright in cost-effective and efficient ways. Learn more about to how to support Small Claims today.