Professional Photographers of America and the Copyright Alliance Throw Support Behind HR 1695 on World IP Day

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Bipartisan bill, currently in House, seeks to make Register of Copyrights a presidential appointee.

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PPA and the Copyright Alliance will use the timing of the World IP Day festivities to place a spotlight on HR 1695.

Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and The Copyright Alliance will be in Washington D.C. on April 26, 2017 to attend the Copyright Matters program in the capitol, celebrating the 17th annual World IP Day. World Intellectual Property Day will feature panel discussions with several lawmakers and the artists directly affected by copyright issues. This year’s celebration comes during a critical time, as PPA and the Copyright Alliance have announced their impassioned support of HR 1695, a bill meant to help strengthen copyright protections for visual artists across the United States. Visual artists include illustrators, graphic designers, artists, photographers, visual journalists, videographers, and others who create and license their works for the news media, magazines, advertising, books and other publications, consumer products, digital platforms, multimedia presentations, and broadcast. Typically, they are one-or-two-person businesses and small, family enterprises that not only create, but also are responsible for running all facets of a small business. PPA has been mobilizing its members and anyone who supports small businesses and the arts to contact their representative to support HR 1695 via letters and phone calls.

To help facilitate the marketplace for creative works, visual artists have long called for modernizing the U.S. Copyright Office (USCO). That goal is one step closer to reality with the introduction of HR 1695, the Register of Copyrights and Selection and Accountability Act, which would make the Register of Copyrights, who leads the USCO, a presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed position. The bill recently passed out of the House Judiciary Committee by the overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 27-1 and is supported by the Copyright Alliance, a coalition of 46 companies that includes the RIAA, Disney, and Professional Photographers of America.

The U.S. Copyright Office, which resides in the Library of Congress, maintains copyright registration and recordation databases upon which creators, licensees, users and consumers depend, but which have become outdated. Indeed, despite repeated calls by former Registers for reform, including releasing the most forward-looking IT plan in the Office’s history, the USCO has been unable to modernize because it lacks the autonomy to do so. The Office’s efforts have been frustrated as it is housed within the Library of Congress where it competes with many other Library priorities for resources, technology and staff. This arrangement may have worked in the past, but the creative economy now contributes $1.2 trillion to the U.S. GDP and supports 5.5 million jobs. PPA and the Copyright Alliance believe that HR 1695 would give the Register the autonomy to modernize the Copyright Office to suit the specialized needs of the copyright system. HR 1695 would also elevate the office of the Register to a stature commensurate with the economic sector to which the duties of the Office are so critical.

The U.S. Copyright Office also has a policy mission, statutorily acting as Congress’ impartial advisor on copyright law and policy. Historically, that Office has been a resource to Congress, providing counsel on issues large and small. This is particularly important for individual creators and small businesses, for without this dedicated “think tank,” Congress might not hear the plight of creators, like photographers, on critical issues such as how to handle copyright infringement claims too small to justify the expense of undertaking a federal law suit. PPA and the Copyright Alliance believe that the U.S. Copyright Office must have the autonomy necessary to continue its vital advisory role to Congress and a presidential appointee position would make this a reality.

Some critics of the legislation have suggested that elevating the Register is an attempt to “give more power to Hollywood”. Without a doubt, the USCO’s technological shortcomings affect visual artists far more than movie studios and record labels. For instance, Variety reported that 563 movies were released in 2014 by the entire movie industry, which is a relatively small number of copyrights to register for an entire year. By contrast, a single photographer can take well over 500 photos in one session, and may create as many as 50,000 individual photographs per year. Further, unlike large entertainment companies, these artists, like photographers do not have the luxury of in-house professionals who can dedicate their time to navigating the complexities of the registration process. As a result, many visual artists forgo registration, which then makes defending one’s rights in court a virtual impossibility. Put another way, the U.S. Copyright Office’s problems represent a de facto regressive tax—the smaller the creator, the more adversely they are impacted.

PPA and the Copyright Alliance will use the timing of the World IP Day festivities to place a spotlight on HR 1695. It is their belief that, especially with public attention turned toward copyright matters, Congress should take an important first step towards fixing these problems and pass HR 1695. By ensuring the Register has the autonomy necessary to begin implementing operational reforms and continuing to provide impartial advice, visual artists and all creators will be able to continue creating works that contribute to the American economy and help shape our society in the digital age.

About PPA:
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the largest international nonprofit association created by professional photographers, for professional photographers. Almost as long-lived as photography itself, PPA's roots date back to 1869. It assists nearly 30,000 members through protection, education and resources for their continued success. See how PPA helps photographers be more at PPA.com/BeMore.

About the Copyright Alliance:
The Copyright Alliance is the unified voice of the copyright community, representing the interests of thousands of individuals and organizations across the spectrum of copyright disciplines. The Copyright Alliance is dedicated to advocating policies that promote and preserve the value of copyright, and to protecting the rights of creators and innovators.

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James Yates

Jef Tingley
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