Artists coalition makes copyright case to capitol hill

Proposed Reforms Led by PPA and Backed by Coalition of Artists Introduced in Congress

Known for years by activists and supporters as the “small claims bill”, the CASE Act is backed by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and a coalition of visual arts groups including the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), the Digital Media and Licensing Association (DMLA), American Photographic Artists (APA), The American Society for Collective Rights Licensing (ASCRL), the Graphic Artists Guild (GAG), the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), and the North American Nature Photography Association. The CASE Act would make it possible for small-business image creators (i.e. professional photographers) to take advantage of the U.S. copyright system for the first time since its inception. This small claims bill would provide creators with a remedy to protect their works, and make sure that they are paid for what they produce. The bill establishes a tribunal operating under the U.S. Copyright Office, who would oversee the new small-claims process for infringement remedies.

In the U.S., copyright claims have traditionally only been allowed to be filed in person in federal court, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring to fruition. “Small” creators report that most infringements are valued at $3,000 or less, hardly worth filing in federal court. Surveys that show many, or most, small creators earn just $35,000 a year on average.

“PPA has fought for over a decade to address how our current one-size-fits-all registration system simply doesn’t work for professional photographers,” says PPA President Audrey Wancket. “It’s our job as the nation’s leading nonprofit dedicated to professional photographers to know and understand the issues important to our members. The money they lose from infringements each year is a real concern. Photographers and other visual artists have always been treated inequitably under the current copyright system. Passing a small claims bill is our number one priority on The Hill and would transform the copyright landscape for every professional photographer across America.”

For more than ten years, Professional Photographers of America (PPA) has been working on Capitol Hill, explaining the critical need for a small-claims enforcement option for mom-and-pop creators. The CASE Act is largely consistent with the legislative recommendations in the “Copyright Small Claims” report released in late 2013 by the U.S. Copyright Office, which deserves much credit for its groundbreaking effort in this area. PPA and the visual arts coalition is grateful for the significant work already undertaken by Congress and the Copyright Office in drafting this bill and looks forward to continuing to work with all parties to properly and substantively help shield works from copyright infringement and allow for the earning of a fair living.

PPA will continue to work with Congress and actively engage and mobilize its 30,000+ photographer-members via their Copyright Grassroots Action Team. Tens of thousands of concerned constituents have sent letters, called their senators and representatives, and made their voices heard on Capitol Hill to make The CASE Act a reality. PPA and its members and partners will continue to lend their support to this legislation throughout 2019.

About PPA:

Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the world’s largest and oldest association representing professional photographers. Founded in 1868, PPA exists to help its members prosper artistically and financially by providing artistic and entrepreneurial skills through its industry-leading education system, unmatched benefits, and award-winning magazine. PPA was founded over a predatory patent application and continues its work on Capitol Hill to defend photographers’ rights today.

Visual Arts Groups Applaud Release of New Small Claims Legislation

The CASE Act, backed by Coalition of Visual Artists, creates a small-claims process for creators whose work is infringed.

The CASE Act creates a small claims tribunal operating under the U.S. Copyright Office — a process that will be especially valuable to an estimated 500,000 small creators, including photographers, illustrators, graphic designers, song-writers, independent authors, and others whose only remedy for infringement is to pursue an action in Federal Court. A Federal court action can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring to fruition, while small creators report that most infringements are valued at $3,000 or less.

“It’s hard to imagine a world that doesn’t protect small creators, but that is exactly what we have today,” says David Trust, CEO of Professional Photographers of America. “Ironically, it is the same group of creators that can least afford to have their work stolen.” Trust is referring to surveys that show many, or most, small creators earning just $35,000 a year on average. “With the CASE Act, smaller creators would finally have an equal seat at the table of protections enjoyed for so long by other creators.”

The CASE Act would provide a way for creators to recover damages from an infringement without going to Federal Court. Damages would be capped at $30,000 per proceeding, although expectations are that most of the claims would be valued at much less than that. Proponents of the bill believe the creation of a small claims process is long overdue.

American Society of Media Photographers executive director Tom Kennedy stresses the urgency for a small claims process. “For ASMP members, congressional action on the CASE Act is not an abstract exercise in lawmaking. Photographers we represent are small business owners who depend on licensing income from their photographs to stay solvent as they work long hours without the luxury of lots of staff to make their businesses work smoothly. Yet, unfortunately on a weekly basis, our members experience multiple infringements that deprive them of the income so necessary for business success. That lack of income can be the different for making a mortgage payment or paying a school tuition.”

The Graphic Artists Guild strongly supports the introduction of the The CASE Act, establishing a copyright small claims tribunal. “Graphic artists – designers and illustrators – are caught in a zero-sum game when it comes to enforcing their copyrights”, says Rebecca Blake, Advocacy Liaison for the Graphic Artists Guild. “Their work is routinely infringed and infringers, knowing that the artists often don’t have the means to take an infringement lawsuit to federal court, usually ignore their attempts to revolve the dispute. The CASE Act will provide an affordable, equitable means for graphic artists to enforce their copyright.”

“Copyright infringement is a pernicious problem for our members,” said Michael P. King, President of the National Press Photographers Association. “Visual journalism is incredibly valuable work that is regularly stolen and circulated on the Internet. Yet visual journalists currently face a long, expensive process to be compensated for the theft of their work. The manner in which infringement persists without a workable remedy is economically devastating for photographers, their clients and their employers. It is our hope that the balanced nature of the CASE Act provides a real solution for photographers and other authors.”

“We are so grateful that Congress is taking up the CASE Act,” says Cathy Aron, Digital Media Licensing Association executive director. “This legislation is a critical element of copyright reform as it offers the image licensing industry, and others, an alternative to expensive Federal litigation to resolve copyright claims in an affordable manner. An effective copyright system is the bedrock of the licensing community, and an ability to seek real remedies for the garden variety infringements that are pervasive in an online environment, is essential to the licensing industry. We are delighted that all the hard work from many associations, congress people, senators, and advocates is finally paying off.”

Having the CASE Act enacted into law would finally provide individual creators with the tools they need to protect their creative works from those who use them without permission or compensation. Enacting the CASE Act would remedy a historic inequity of the copyright system and by giving visual creators the kinds of protections that enables them to continue to create works that impact all of society in a positive way.

About the members of the Coalition of Visual Artists:

American Photographic Artists (APA) is a leading national nonprofit organization run by and for professional photographers. APA strives to improve the environment for photographic artists and clear the pathways to success in the industry. Recognized for its broad industry reach, APA works to champion the rights of photographers and image-makers worldwide.

The American Society for Collective Rights Licensing (ASCRL) is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit collective management organization (CMO) for visual art authors and rights owners. We collect royalties and distribute them to our members based upon representation agreements that we have with other collecting societies around the world. Our intention is to provide an ongoing revenue stream from reprographic funds for authors or rights owners in visual works.

The American Society of Media Photographers is this country’s foremost trade association supporting independent photographers who work commercially for publication in all forms of media. ASMP is the leader in promoting photographers’ rights, providing education in better business practices, producing business publications for photographers, and helping to connect clients with professional photographers. ASMP, founded in 1944, has nearly 5,000 members organized into 38 chapters across the country.

The Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA) has developed business standards, promoted ethical business practices, and actively advocated copyright protection on behalf of its members for over 65 years. In this era of continuous change, we have remained an active community where vital information is shared and common interests are explored. In addition, DMLA educates and informs its members on issues including technology, tools, and changes in the marketplace.

The Graphic Artists Guild (GAG) has advocated on behalf of graphic designers, illustrators, animators, cartoonists, comic artists, web designers, and production artists for over fifty years. GAG educates graphic artists on best practices through webinars, Guild e-news, resource articles, and meetups. The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines has raised industry standards and provides graphic artists and their clients guidance on best practices and pricing standards.

The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) has been the Voice of Visual Journalists since its founding in 1946. NPPA is a 501(c)(6) non-profit professional organization dedicated to the advancement of visual journalism, its creation, editing and distribution in all news media. Our Code of Ethics encourage visual journalists to reflect the highest standards of quality and ethics in their professional performance, in their business practices and in their comportment. NPPA vigorously advocates for and protects the Constitutional rights of journalists as well as freedom of the press and speech in all its forms, especially as it relates to visual journalism. Its members include still and television photographers, editors, students, and representatives of businesses serving the visual journalism community.

North American Nature Photography Association promotes the art and science of nature photography as a medium of communication, nature appreciation, and environmental protection by providing information, education, inspiration, and opportunity for all persons interested in nature photography. NANPA fosters excellence and ethical conduct in all aspects of our endeavors and especially encourages responsible photography in the wild.

Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the world’s largest and oldest association representing professional photographers. Founded in 1868, PPA exists to help its members prosper artistically and financially by providing artistic and entrepreneurial skills through its industry-leading education system, unmatched benefits, and award winning magazine. PPA was founded over a predatory patent application, and continues its work on Capitol Hill to defend photographers’ rights today.