Visual Arts Groups Propose Copyright Small Claims System

Copyright SymbolSeven visual arts associations have submitted a proposal to Congress that outlines key components of potential copyright small claims legislation. Establishing a small claims process would enable visual artists to seek relief for relatively modest copyright infringement claims.

It would also help maintain respect for copyright laws and protect the livelihoods of creators who earn significant income from licensing their images. When infringers use a creator’s images without authorization, the creator’s revenues can suffer.

The proposal (which can be viewed here in a summary white paper) is a collaboration between American Photographic Artists (APA), American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA), Graphic Artists Guild (GAG), National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) and Professional Photographers of America (PPA). Together, these associations represent the interests of hundreds of thousands of photographers, photojournalists, videographers, illustrators, graphic designers, artists, and their licensing representatives.

The proposal advocates for the creation of a small claims tribunal within the U.S. Copyright Office. The basic framework for small claims legislation is in large part consistent with the legislative recommendations set out in the “Copyright Small Claims” report released in late 2013 by the U.S. Copyright Office.

The proposal asserts that the cost and burden of pursuing copyright infringement lawsuits in federal district courts is prohibitive. According to the white paper, the cost of bringing an infringement case is far beyond the reach of most visual artists and the time and energy invested in a single case can be overwhelming to creators whose sole source of income is their ability to market their work.

All too often, visual artists are left with no effective way to vindicate their rights. The visual arts associations believe a small claims process within the Copyright Office would provide a fair, cost-effective and streamlined venue in which creators could seek relief for relatively modest copyright infringement claims. The system could also combat public perceptions that creative works posted online are free for the taking and the copyright laws are more effective in protecting the interests of big content providers than those of individuals or small businesses.

“The harsh reality is that the vast majority of creators in America are currently excluded from copyright protection,” said David Trust, CEO of Professional Photographers of America. He believes a small claims process would level the playing field for small creators.

For more information, please contact Professional Photographers of America at 800-786-6277 or copyrightdefense(at)ppa(dot)com.

Law College Workshop Explains Legal Strategies for Professional Artists in the Digital Age

SuccessStrategiesforProfessionalArtistThe Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) in Highland Heights, Kentucky is presenting a workshop on legal and business tactics for visual artists, filmmakers, musicians, video-game creators, and other creatives who are striving to earn a living from their passions.

Entitled “Success Strategies for the Professional Artists in the Digital Age,” the workshop will take place from 4:30 to 8:30 pm on Wednesday, November 6 in the NKU Griffin Hall Rieveschl Digitorium. A live webcast will be offered to those who can’t attend in person.

The program includes panel discussions on three important topics:

  • Legal and Business Strategies for Local Film Production
  • Exhibiting, Licensing, Publishing, and Promoting
  • Crowdfunding and Project Financing: Getting the Professional Paid

“Success Strategies for the Professional Artist in the Digital Age” can help lawyers and their creative artist clients understand how easy online access to media, and changing business practices for media distribution can lead to digital exploitation of the artist’s work. Some of the business and legal practices to be discussed by the expert attorneys on the panels include:

  • Crowdsourcing for resources and distribution
  • Crowdfunding through gifts and pre-sales
  • Crowdfunding through capital investment and financing
  • Strategies for legal investor financing of creative projects beyond Kickstarter
  • Rights acquisition agreements
  • Music licensing for film and video games
  • Fair use and transformative works
  • Mash-ups, composites and derivative works
  • Do-it-yourself distribution through social media
  • Gallery and venue agreements, including online galleries
  • Insurance coverage
  • Stock photography agencies
  • Understanding licenses from iTunes, Amazon and others
  • Trends to watch

“In an age dominated by social media and digital distribution, creative artists are required to navigate self-promotion, online contracting, sophisticated financing, and a host of challenges that pull the artist away from the creative process and into the fast-paced world of digital commerce.”“explains Jon Garon, a professor at the NKU Chase College of Law and founding director of the NKU Chase Law + Informatics Institute.

Terry Hart, director of legal policy at the Copyright Alliance, notes that as more people become content creators, there is growing awareness that “there is real value to maintaining some control over what is shared” via social media.

“Success Strategies for the Professional Artists in the Digital Age” is sponsored by the American Bar Association Business Law Section’s Cyberspace Law Committee, Copyright Alliance, the ArtWorks’ SpringBoard, and Frost Brown Todd LLC.

The webcast is hosted by the NKU Chase Law + Informatics Institute, which provides interdisciplinary research, coursework, and community outreach on issues involving media and information systems and emerging technologies across all areas of law. The Institute explores the legal and societal consequences resulting from the creation, acquisition, aggregation, security, manipulation, and exploitation of data.


Success Strategies for the Professional Artist in the Digital Age

NKU Chase Law + Informatics Institute

E-Book Excerpt Helps New Writers and Publishers Understand Plagiarism

The popularity of blogging, e-book publishing, and content marketing has attracted many aspiring authors and untrained freelance writers who may not be fully aware of what constitutes plagiarism.  If you are new to publishing, this lack of knowledge could be damaging.

BeginningWritersAnswerBookFor example, one recent plagiarism case involved self-published “author” Jordin Williams who had hired a ghostwriter through the online freelance marketplace Without Williams’ knowledge, the ghostwriting freelancer plagiarized works from romance writers Tammara Webber and Jamie McGuire.

In the “Beginning Writer’s Answer Book” published by Writer’s Digest, editor Jane Friedman outlines four forms of plagiarism:

  • Inserting parts of someone else’s work into your own without citing the source
  • Submitting work done by someone else with your name on it
  • Paraphrasing someone else’s words and trying to pass them off as your own
  • Taking an article that you have sold the rights to and reusing all or parts of it in a new work

Information that can help you better understand the rules of quoting and when you need to seek permission from a book publisher is included in an e-book excerpt from the Answer Book entitled “What Are the Rights of Others?.” The excerpt can be downloaded for $5.99.

For $15.99 you can download the complete Beginning Writer’s Answer Book. The 452-page guide includes 29 chapters on topics such as formatting and submitting your work, selling nonfiction work, writing and selling articles, starting a freelance career, providing photographs and art with your writing, and using a pen name.

The guide also covers copyright basics and publishing jargon. The chapters at the end of the book answer questions about specialized fields such as: writing poetry, children’s books, scripts, and songs; writing for newspapers; and self-publishing.

In the Writer’s Digest Shop, you can find hundreds of books and webinars, including a list of free articles on topics such as how to publish a book (traditional publishing vs. self-publishing) and how to write a query letter.


Beginning Writer’s Answer Book, edited by Jane Friedman

E-Book Excerpt: What Are the Rights of Others?

About Writer’s Digest: Free Advice—Articles about Writing

New Digital Registration Service for Artists and Writers

WriteVaultWrite Vault is a new digital registration service for artists and writers who want to protect their intellectual property before and after gaining copyrights or patents for the work.

For example, writers can use Write Vault to register works-in-progress that they plan to make available for peer review and editing.

When you register a work with WriteVault, you will receive a time-stamped, proof-of-authorship certificate that can serve as admissible evidence in any legal disputes about when a creative project originated. The types of works that can be protected include:

  • articles and academic papers
  • paintings, drawings, illustrations, and sculptures
  • product designs (blueprints and pattern designs)
  • photographs (with watermarks)
  • poems and song lyrics
  • screenplays, stage plays, and teleplays
  • comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels
  • novels, novellas, and short stories

To register a piece of work, create a Member Account and purchase a credit ($10). This will protect one piece of work for 10 years. You will have a 48-hour grace period to make changes to the descriptions of your work, but once a document is uploaded it cannot be manipulated.

Write Vault users can toggle their registrations from “Private” to “Public” making their work accessible to other registered WriteVault Members for feedback. A download history is updated when the work is accessed.

Writer/producer/inventor Lisa Todd regards it as a useful precursor to copyright registration, especially during the revision process when writers continue to make changes to the basic work. Then, you only pay for copyright registration when you are truly “finished” with the work.

WriteVault was created by Stacy Porter and Devin Watson, two writers with experience in independent film and publishing. They share a personal interest in helping artists protect their intellectual property rights in ways that are technologically current, affordable, and easy to use.



Frequently Asked Questions about WriteVault

New Copyright Guide Explains Photographer’s Rights

PHOTOGRAPHERS. For a clear explanation of how U.S. copyright law applies to photographers, download “The Photographer’s Guide to Copyright.”  The free, 37-page educational guide was produced jointly by PhotoShelter and The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP). The guide lists the six exclusive rights associated with copyright and how to:

  • Safeguard your photos and avoid infringement.
  • Register your work through the U.S. Copyright Office.
  • Take action if you discover that your copyrighted work has been infringed.

PhotoShelterCopyrightGuideThrough interviews with photographers and ASMP experts, the guide addresses topics such as major trends in copyright today, how to incorporate copyright registration into a daily workflow, and the risks of joining social networks.

The book points out that “Understanding the ins and outs of copyright is an asset to your business. As the world of professional photography continues to move online and photographers delve into motion or multimedia projects, it will become increasingly important to understand what rights your creations are granted and what options you have in defending those rights.”

In one of the featured profiles, architecture and interior design photographer Liz Ordoñez explains what it takes to bring an infringement case to court and the best way to avoid it. Because our lives are pretty much ruled by online markets, Ordoñez says at some point your work is going to be used without your permission. She recommends having a strategy in place before it ever happens: “Filing a case should be the absolute last thing you should do.”

“The Photographer’s Guide to Copyright” also demystifies what counts as “fair use” and discusses copyright for video and motion pictures.

“ASMP is a leader in copyright education, and we have continually stressed the importance of persistent attribution and registries,” explained ASMP Executive Director Eugene Mopsik. “We are pleased that our work with PhotoShelter has produced this important resource which is available to the entire imaging community.” In addition to the guide, ASMP’s website offers a wide range of downloadable information and videos on the subject of copyright, licensing, releases and more.

“Professional photographers rely on a strong online presence to grow their business and attract new clients, which is why it’s vital to proactively register and protect images from infringement,” said PhotoShelter CEO Andrew Fingerman. “We’re excited to partner with ASMP to provide a robust resource that will help photographers break down U.S. copyright law and understand their creative rights.”

The Photographer’s Guide to Copyright is the latest in PhotoShelter’s ongoing series of free business guides for photographers and marketing professionals. PhotoShelter’s e-book library includes 25+ educational guides including topics such as social media, email marketing, and starting a photography business.

PhotoShelter is a worldwide leader in photography portfolio websites and sales and marketing tools for photographers. More than 77,000 photographers use PhotoShelter’s websites, social and SEO tools to show their work and attract new clients. Many also use PhotoShelter’s e-commerce tools to sell their photography easily and securely.

ASMP is a premier trade association for imaging professionals.  A well-known leader on current issues, ASMP regularly represents the imaging industry on legislative matters nationally and internationally and provides its members with state-of-the-art information and education.


The Photographer’s Guide to Copyright

PhotoShelter Business Guides



Copyright Enforcement Group Offers Anti-Piracy Protection

The Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG) offers end-to-end solutions that can help content owners minimize copyright and trademark infringements and realize revenues that would have been lost to digital piracy. Their protection and monetization services cover all types of content, including audio, video, images, logs, trademarks, and text across peer-to-peer protocols (P2P), user-generated content sites, and websites.

The CEG WWW Collect™ service utilizes crawlers, scanning tools, and the latest recognition technologies to track a variety of websites for image copyright infringements. When an infringement is tracked and authenticated, the website owner automatically receives a “pre-settlement” offer along with a request to remove the infringing image or other content. If the infringer doesn’t pay the settlement or ignores the notice, the legal team at CEG takes over until a collection is realized. Good-faith efforts can be made to convert the infringing website into a legitimate customer by offering them the option to license your content.

In order to subscribe to CEG’s WWW Collect Service, you must have secured a copyright for every piece of content you want to protect. The CEG offers an in-house copyright service for content owners who haven’t yet registered their copyrights. Content owners simply provide key details and the Copyright Enforcement Groups will do the rest.

CEG will be promoting their services at the Visa pour l’Image International Festival of Photojournalism in Perpignan, France from August 28 to September 4. Photojournalists are particularly concerned about protecting their images from piracy, because capturing some of the best images often requires significant expenses, hardships, and sacrifices.


Copyright Enforcement Group LLC


Campaign Promotes Bill of Rights for Creatives

Logo for Bill of Rights for Creative PeopleEleven professional photography associations have launched a worldwide campaign to help promote the intellectual property rights of creative people in all disciplines—photography, video, film, fine arts, music, writing, design, etc.

The campaign centers around an Artist’s Bill of Rights that outlines a set of ethical principles that enable individuals to control how their creative works are used. It updates a document that the international Pro-Imaging Organization initiated in 2008 to protect the rights of individuals who enter photography competitions.

The Bill of Rights is helping to raise awareness of the practice of “rights-grabbing” in which some competitions harvest unlimited usage rights, or even the copyright, of the works submitted by contest entrants.

According to campaign manager Gordon C. Harrison, “The worst type of rights grabbing is where the terms and conditions for a contest require the entrant to assign the entire copyright and other rights for any works submitted to the competition, and to waive their moral rights. These practices are not uncommon. We have documented 35 cases of  copyright grabbing, 26 cases where moral rights have to be waived, and 7 cases where both occurred.”

If the practice of rights-grabbing continues to spread,  it will devalue photography, art, music, and creativity as a whole by reducing the need for organizations to commission or purchase creative works.

A key aim of the Artist’s Bill of Rights campaign is to educate the public about the importance and potential value of their intellectual property rights. The campaign can also help educate contest organizers who might unknowingly be asking for more usage rights than they actually needed to conduct and promote the contest.

The Artist’s Bill of Rights campaign is presented through a website that is now available in over 40 languages.

Campaign Aims

The campaign has the following aims:

  • To provide a means whereby all artists’ associations can unite around a common set of standards for preservation of their rights.
  • To promote the Bill of Rights’ standards for the preservation of artists’ rights in competitions and appeals seeking creative works.
  • To promote organisations who support the Artists’ Bill of Rights and to promote their competitions and appeals.
  • To educate the public about the purpose and value of their intellectual property rights and to enable them to recognise when they are being exploited.
  • To publish reports about the extent of rights grabbing and to analyse and quantify the rights grabbed by the private, public, charitable, and non-profit sectors.
  • To press for legislative changes that would protect the public from unfair and unethical terms and conditions that seek to exploit their intellectual property rights.

Campaign Supporters

The eleven associations currently supporting the campaign include:

  • Advertising & Illustrative Photographers Association (New Zealand)
  • Association of Professional Photographers (Iceland)
  • Association of Photographers (United Kingdom)
  • Australian Commercial & Media Photographers
  • Australian Institute of Professional Photography
  • British Institute of Professional Photography (United Kingdom)
  • British Photographic Council (United Kingdom)
  • DJ:Fotograferne, photographers within the Union of Journalists (Denmark)
  • Editorial Photographers of United Kingdom and Ireland
  • Pro-Imaging Organisation (United Kingdom)
  • The National Press Photographers Association (US)

In addition to these associations, many private and public sector organizations have proclaimed their support for the principles, including the Society of Authors. All of the supporters are listed on the campaign website. All artists organizations are invited to participate, and contact the campaign organizers through the website.

The website also lists photography competitions that comply with the principles in The Artist’s Bill of Rights and those that don’t.

If you or your studio or organization want to show support for the principles in the Artist’s Bill of Rights, you can grab the appropriate logo below, and link it to:

Logo for Organizations to Support Artist's Bill of Rights

Logo for individual support of Artist's Bill of Rights


Website: Artist’s Bill of Rights

Resources on the Artist’s Bill of Rights Website

Guide to Rights & Licensing
An overview of copyright, types of licenses, moral rights, and the consequences of rights grabbing. As the authors of the website point out: “Rights grabbing devalues creativity by acquiring creativity for nothing.” Rights grabbing can also damage your reputation if your work is used to promote products, services, or campaigns of which you don’t approve.

Organiser’s Guide to The Artist’s Bill of Rights
This section of The Artist’s Bill of Right website explains how contest organizers can write competition terms and conditions that will give them the rights they need for their own publicity and promotion requirements while respecting the rights of the entrants.

Rights-Grabbing Statistics
Spreadsheets on this page attempt to calculate the extent of the problem and pinpoint the sectors in which rights-grabbing occurs most frequently. An analysis of current statistics estimates that more than 6,000 images are being grabbed each day.