NANPA Goes to Washington: Copyright Small Claims Update

By Jane Halperin and Sean Fitzgerald

NANPA is part of, a group of visual arts associations that have been working for years to modernize the copyright system for photographers and develop a small claims process that makes it easier and affordable to enforce copyright infringements. Jane Halperin, Chair of the NANPA Advocacy  Committee, and Sean Fitzgerald attend weekly teleconference meetings with the Visual Association members and their legal counsel to discuss and work on plans to push these plans forward. Last month, we all met in Washington DC to meet with various Congresspersons, their staff, and others on Capitol Hill.

Creative Rights Caucus presentation to Congress on copyright for small creators, with slide showing NANPA logo, Washington D.C. USA.

Creative Rights Caucus presentation to Congress on copyright for small creators, with slide showing NANPA logo, Washington D.C. USA.

At this point, you might reasonably roll your eyes and sigh that nothing will ever come of this. But after years of effort, lo and behold, we have progress!  House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich recently put forth an initial policy proposal that includes “granting the Copyright Office autonomy with respect to the Library of Congress, requiring the [U.S. Copyright] Office to maintain an up-to-date digital, searchable database of all copyrighted works and associated copyright ownership information, and many others reforms” including a small claims process for copyright infringement.

And in the House, Representative Judy Chu (D-Ca.) and Co-Sponsor Lamar Smith (R-Tx.) introduced the “Fairness for America’s Small Creators Act”, a “small claims bill” that would make it possible for photographers to much more effectively take advantage of the U.S. copyright system. This small claims bill would provide photographers with an effective remedy to protect their works and make sure that they are paid for what they produce. The bill establishes a tribunal made of two attorneys with copyright backgrounds and a third arbitrator familiar with U.S. Copyright law, who would oversee the new small claims process for infringement remedies.

In other words, after years of effort, the ball is finally moving forward and photographers may finally get needed help with protecting the value of their images. Much remains to be done, but NANPA will be there, helping give all nature photographers a seat at the table and a voice in this process.  This is a busy time, though. The Copyright Office needs a new Register, and it is proposing a policy change for registering copyright that includes a big problem for high volume photographers like us. We will talk about that in additional posts.

View to Congress from window of Congressman John Conyers' office, Washington D.C. USA.

View to Congress from window of Congressman John Conyers’ office, Washington D.C. USA.