Copyright Advocacy: a 2020 Summary

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Copyright. Image by Pete Linforth, Pixabay license.

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

NANPA is busy working for and with nature photographers throughout the year. You know us through NANPA’s Showcase photo competitions, Nature Photography Day, Summits and Regional Field Events, webinars, grants and scholarships. But that’s only part of what NANPA does: a lot of work goes on behind the scenes. One key area of NANPA’s work that sometimes doesn’t get a lot of visibility is our participation in the Copyright Alliance and the initiatives they champion to protect our rights as creative artists. The Alliance just released their end of year report and we thought you’d be interested in what transpired in 2020.

Since its founding, NANPA has been a critical advocate for the rights of nature photographers on a wide range of issues, from intellectual property to public land access for nature photographers. In fact, our focus on nature photographers’ rights is one of the things that separates NANPA from other photo clubs and organizations. Working with and through the Copyright Alliance, our voice—your voice—is amplified. Collectively, there’s been a lot of progress made this past year.

Since 2019 NANPA has worked to advance the Copyright Alternative Small Claims Enforcement Act, or “CASE Act,” to establish a voluntary small claims process for copyright infringements. This year, through your notes and calls to members of congress and the persistent effort of the Copyright Alliance, the CASE Act finally passed the Senate and was included in the omnibus spending bill sent to the White House on December 21. President Trump refused to sign the bill for several days, discontent with some of the coronavirus relief provisions in it, but ultimately signed it into law.

The year also saw a variety of often contradictory court decisions on copyright protections for photographers. NANPA and the Copyright Alliance have been monitoring these cases and, in many instances, have filed amicus briefs in support of creators’ rights. In addition, the Copyright Alliance has submitted comments to the U.S. Copyright Office regarding the interpretation of State Sovereign Immunity, an issue that arose when the University of Houston was accused of using photographer Jim Olive’s copyrighted image without permission.

During the 116th Congress (2019-2020) the Copyright Alliance was involved in hearings on the Copyright Office Modernization Act and on updating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The Alliance also played a role in the selection of the new Register of Copyrights. In addition, the Alliance is keeping a close eye on and working to influence the direction of the American Law Institute’s Copyright Restatement project, a summary of case law and interpretations that could be used by attorneys and judges for guidance in rights cases.

Finally, the Copyright Alliance was involved in legislative and other efforts to help the creative community deal with the effects of the pandemic.

All signs point to 2021 being another eventful year for copyright and the rights of creative artists. NANPA and the Copyright Alliance will be there, representing the collective voices of nature photographers every step of the way. Learn more about NANPA’s advocacy work in these and other critical areas here.