Professional Photographers of America Makes Fall Visit to Washington

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Talks Small Claims, Drones on Capitol Hill

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Early last week, Professional Photographers of America (PPA) visited Capitol Hill to advocate for photographer’s copyrights. PPA’s CEO, David Trust, and its copyright and government affairs department met with a series of committees and subcommittees on the Hill in order to help determine future political strategy.

Topics mostly centered on commercial use of drones and the need for a federal small claims court. At the heart of the discussions, the committees honed down the need for a commercial policy for a pretty polarizing and popular topic of late—drones. PPA argued for exemptions to be made for PPA photographers in regard to the use of drones.

“Drones can be a valuable tool for professional photographers,” said Trust. “We think exemptions should be made for PPA photographers to allow for the use of drones during certain assignments. Obviously, plenty still needs to be ironed out but the discussions were encouraging.”

Worth noting are the November 4 midterm elections. The elections will create a lame duck session, which occurs when Congress meets with elected successors post-midterm elections but before the successor’s term begins. These lame duck sessions will continue for an undetermined time. Because it is unknown who will be elected, it is difficult to forecast exactly what will happen in a lame duck session.

However, Tom Chapman, Counsel to the Subcommittee on Aviation, Safety, and Security, thought it was likely that significant change in drone policy could occur as early as the lame duck session. Specifically, things could change in response to the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2012 which instructed the FAA to safely introduce drones into the national air space. This change in policy is forecasted as a result of the current influx of drone exemption applications that the FAA has recently received. While commercial drone use is illegal, the FAA allows exemptions to be applied for under §333 of the 2012 Act.

PPA also presented to the committees another central issue with copyright policy—the lack of a small claims remedial process. Because of the disenfranchisement of all people in federal court, the Copyright Office agreed with PPA that there needs to be a type of federal small claims court, which would thereby allow for copyright claims to be made without an attorney. PPA argued this is necessary to help all persons through the legal system.

PPA has long stressed the importance of a small claims court for federal suits and the proposal of a federal small claims court was generally well received. How legislators will attempt to go about this is still up for debate due to constitutional conflictions- particularly in reference to Article III of the Constitution.

A longtime advocate for photographer copyrights, PPA provides a short version of its Copyright Kit completely free to the public. Get yours at To leverage all of PPA’s many copyright resources, join PPA at

About PPA:
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the largest international non-profit association created by professional photographers, for professional photographers. Almost as long-lived as photography itself, PPA has roots that date back to 1869. It assists more than 27,000 members through protection, education and resources for their continued success. See how PPA helps photographers be more at

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John Owens
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