Category Archives: Copyright Office

Copyright Office Releases “Copyright and Visual Works: The Legal Landscape of Opportunities and Challenges”

The U.S. Copyright Office has submitted a letter to Congress detailing the results of the Office’s public inquiry on how certain visual works, particularly photographs, graphic artworks, and illustrations, are registered, monetized, and enforced under the Copyright Act of 1976. The Office sought commentary on the marketplace for these visual works, as well as observations regarding the real or potential obstacles that creators and users of visual works face when navigating the digital landscape. A number of stakeholders raised specific issues they face on a regular basis regarding current copyright law and practices that fall within three general categories: (1) difficulties with the registration process; (2) challenges with licensing generally and monetizing visual works online; and (3) general enforcement obstacles.

The Copyright Office takes these concerns seriously and has already taken steps to address them where it can, most notably with the ongoing Office modernization efforts in preparation for a wholesale technological upgrade to the Office’s systems. In other areas, the Office finds that legislative action is the best solution. The Office continues to strongly support the idea of a small copyright claims tribunal, as well as a legislative solution to the orphan works conundrum. Congress’ action in these two areas would go far to alleviate several important concerns raised by visual artists.

The letter, public comments, and background material are available on the Copyright Office website here

Copyright Office Fee Increase Survey

Dear DMLA Members and Friends of DMLA:

The U.S. Copyright Office has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking announcing fee increases for copyright registration and other services. The proposed fee increases are based on a Study Report released by the U.S. Copyright office. Fee increases for services will be implemented as the U.S. Copyright Office moves forward with their plans for IT modernization.

Visual creators’ professional organizations and advocates are concerned about how these fee increases will affect visual creators, licensing agents, and related professionals. We will be submitting a Comment Letter to the U.S. Copyright Office about the proposed fee increases. We have created a survey to gather information and feedback from creators who will be impacted by registration fee increases. We will be submitting the survey results to the Copyright Office. The survey is completely anonymous.

We need your help by taking 15 minutes for a short survey. The survey is anonymous and all responses are confidential. We will use this data to support our response to proposed changes in U.S. copyright registration.

The survey will close at midnight on September 7, 2018.

 2018 Copyright Office Proposed Registration Fee Increase survey LINK https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GGV59XY

Survey link for social media https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WY67XHK

Please pass this along to other artists, photographers, and related professionals you know and urge them to take the survey, too!

Sincerely,

The Coalition of Visual Artists:

American Photographic Artists

American Society of Media Photographers

Digital Media Licensing Association

Graphic Artists Guild

National Press Photographers Association

North American Nature Photography Association

Professional Photographers of America

PLUS Coalition

American Society for Collective Rights Licensing

Eugene Mopsik

Shaftel & Schmelzer

BREAKING: High Court To Tackle Copyright Registration Circuit Split

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to resolve a long-simmering circuit split over whether copyright owners must fully register their works before suing.

The justices granted a petition for writ of certiorari in the case of Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com LLC, allowing them to answer a question that has split the circuits: What exactly the Copyright Act means when it says a work must be “registered” prior to the filing an infringement lawsuit.

In several circuits, copyright owners can sue as soon as they file the application paperwork with the U.S. Copyright Office; in others, they can’t sue until the office actually registers or takes action on the application, which can take many months if they don’t pay a significant fee for expedited handling.

Fourth Estate, a journalism collective, sued Wall-Street.com for reposting articles without permission in March 2016. But a federal judge tossed the case two months later, saying Fourth Estate had filed its lawsuit before it had fully registered the copyrights for the articles.

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed that decision in May, telling Fourth Estate that “filing an application does not amount to registration.”

The ruling came after the U.S. solicitor general urged the justices to tackle the issue and affirm the Eleventh Circuit’s position.

“The text, structure, and history of the Copyright Act confirm that the register must have acted on an application for copyright registration — either by approving or refusing registration — before the copyright owner may institute a copyright-infringement suit,” the government wrote. “Petitioner’s contrary arguments are unavailing.”

SUPPORT NEEDED FOR CASE ACT!!

I’m sure that you’re aware we been working for the last few years with a group of other associations on what is now the CASE Act (HR#3945) the SMALL CLAIMS TRIBUNAL BILL, a bill by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Tom Marino (R-PA), Doug Collins (R-GA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Judy Chu (D-CA), and Ted Lieu (D-CA). The bill is ready for write-up and we are now awaiting a date for that to happen based on a couple of issues still being worked out, but it looks like it could be as early as next week.

It has come to our attention that so far only about 2200 letters have been received by the Copyright Alliance platform which is less than 5 letters per member of Congress–barely even noticeable. We have been told by the players on the Hill that the passage of this bill will come down to grassroots support and this is a very poor showing. They need to see that we are behind this important bill for creators!

We need every member and their photographers and their adult children, friends and neighbors to send letters to their representatives!

I am asking you to send out a plea to your staff and photographers to help us get this bill passed by contacting their representatives. It is really easy. There are letters ready for them to use here. If we fail and small claims doesn’t make it through this year, it will be very difficult to get it passed in subsequent years. THIS IS OUR CHANCE! Please help all creators protect their copyrights!

Thanks so much for your help!

BlockChain Registration: Proof of Existence Is Not Proof of Ownership

By Joe Naylor, President and CEO of ImageRights

There is a dangerous movement afoot; the idea that registration of your images on the blockchain is a cheap and simple alternative to registration with the United States Copyright Office. It is not.

Those providing copyright registration services based solely on the blockchain will argue that inscribing a hash of your image along with its accompanying metadata creates an immutable record of your copyright ownership. False.

Read the entire article here.

DMLA JOINS IN AMICUS BRIEF VHT v ZILLOW

DMLA joins in amicus brief in VHT v Zillow, supporting VHT’s award of statutory damages based on number of infringed images under a database group registration of photographs

On Monday December 18, 2017, DMLA joined NPPA, ASMP and GAG in submitting an amicus brief before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of VHT, a real estate photography company against Zillow, an online real estate platform on the narrow issue of the proper calculation of statutory damages based on multiple infringed images registered using a database registration consisting predominantly of photographs. The appeal by Zillow argues, among other issues, that the district court erred in awarding statutory damages to VHT based on each image infringed having independent economic value, despite being registered under a single database registration of photographs, which Zillow argues should only entitle VHT to one award of statutory damages regardless of the massive number of images infringed. The relevant question in the Zillow case hinges on what a court considers a “work” under Section 504(c)(1) of the Copyright Act, each separate image filed within the application, or the database as a whole, which would be one work.

The amicus brief supports the view that the independent value test applied by the lower court, and previously adopted by the Ninth Circuit is the correct one. The amicus brief describes the historical background of the various group registration procedures designed by the U.S. Copyright Office, to ease the administrative burden of registration of photographs which has unique challenges given the amount of images a photographer can create in a day.  In particular, the database registration of photographs was developed with input from DMLA and its members (formerly PACA) to protect images distributed through online platforms, which formerly were distributed via published print catalogs. The amici argue that the form of registration should have no impact on whether the independent works covered by the registration should be considered a single work, entitled to a single statutory damage or multiple works entitled to damages for each work infringed. The outcome of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling could have a major impact on the ability of image libraries and their contributing photographers to recover appropriate damages from infringers who use more than one of their photographs without permission, based on group registration, particularly those in the Ninth’s Circuit’s jurisdiction which includes California, Oregon, Washington state, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii.

The brief, which you can find here, was filed by NPPA’s Deputy General Counsel, Alicia Calzada, with support from DMLA’s attorneys Nancy Wolff and Marissa Lewis of Cowan, DeBaets , Abrahams and Sheppard LLP. An amicus brief on another important issue in the case—secondary liability—was filed in support of VHT by the Copyright Alliance (link: http://copyrightalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Copyright-Alliance-VHT-v-Zillow-Amicus-Brief.pdf ), where DMLA is a member.

Copyright Small Claims: A Solution for Many Creators

Since the bill Copyright Small Claims Bill, H.R. 3945,  entitled, the “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017” (the “CASE Act”) was introduced by Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), there have been many articles published in support of this important legislation. Here is a great article to help you understand why this bill is so important to our industry and to all creators.

Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017

DMLA is happy to announce our support for the bill by Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) to create a small claims court within the Copyright Office.  The bill, H.R. 3945,  entitled, the “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017” (the “CASE Act”) is also cosponsored by Representatives Tom Marino (R-PA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Doug Collins (R-GA), Judy Chu (D-CA) and Ted Lieu (DCA).

Here are links to the press release issued by Rep. Jeffries and his colleagues yesterday announcing the introduction of the bill, a press release issued by DMLA and several other visual artist organizations praising the introduction of the legislation, and the bill, H.R. 3945.

 

 

ImageRights Announces Dedicated Copyright Registration Service

ImageRights International, the global leader in copyright enforcement services for photo agencies and professional photographers, today announced the launch of a dedicated copyright registration service. For the first time, any photographer or agency can register their images with the United States Copyright Office through ImageRights highly efficient and precise copyright service. Previously, only ImageRights members had access to the service.

Read more here