What? You thought copyright law protects you?
Not so much. Copyright law is great for the big creators—the motion pictures companies, rock stars—but it does precious little for high-volume creators like professional photographers, for whom each piece of work has a relatively low monetary value. Here’s why: In order to battle an infringer, you have to take your case to federal court. Federal court is expensive—like $345,000 expensive for the average copyright case cost. In fact, you'd have a hard time getting an attorney to touch a copyright infringement case unless damages are likely to exceed $30,000 … at a minimum.
The average copyright infringement against a photographer is valued at less than $3,000. That’s a lot of money for a photographer, who on average makes $35,000 a year. And yet it’s not near enough to take down an infringer.
Sound unfair? And illogical? It is. That’s why the nation's largest nonprofit association of working photographers is bucking for change. And the time to act is now.
For more than 20 years, Professional Photographers of America has been active in getting copyright law reformed. One of PPA's priorities is seeing the creation of a small claims process for copyright so photographers can go after infringers. And finally—just this month—lawmakers are drafting legislation to put this copyright small claims process in place.
Exciting news? Yes! End of the journey? No! The bill won’t make it from draft to legislation without co-sponsors—lots of them. And it won’t get co-sponsors without the voices of tens of thousands—yes, tens of thousands—of photographers and other visual arts creators pleading for them to act ASAP. So here’s what we need you to do:
This could be the most significant copyright change in your lifetime.
Amanda Arnold is the associate editor of Professional Photographer.