In the wake of its release of a white paper setting out the key components of a copyright small claims bill, a coalition of visual artist groups welcomes the attention that this critical issue is now garnering on Capitol Hill. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’s (D-NY) introduction, along with original cosponsor, Tom Marino (R-PA), of a bill, H.R. 5757 establishing a small claims board and the forthcoming introduction by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) of her own version of small claims legislation establishing a small claims tribunal in the Copyright Office, are a welcomed next step in a process that will hopefully result in much-needed legislative relief for photographers, photojournalists, videographers, illustrators, graphic designers, and other visual artists and their licensing representatives. These artists are currently squeezed out of the legal system by the high cost of bringing suit in federal court and have seen their licensing revenues decimated in recent years by the proliferation of copyright infringement, particularly in the online context.
The coalition looks forward to working with Representatives Jeffries, Marino, Chu and all members of Congress to correct this inequity in America’s copyright system.
Earlier this year, the coalition, which includes the 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), set forth recommendations with regard to key components in any forthcoming congressional small claims legislation.
Coalition members believe small claims reform to be their top legislative priority and call upon Congress to enact legislation that provides visual artists and other small creators with a viable, affordable alternative to prosecuting copyright infringement in federal court—a prohibitively expensive and little-used option by visual artists. This approach is largely consistent with the legislative recommendations set forth in the “Copyright Small Claims” report released in late 2013 by the U.S. Copyright Office which deserves much credit for its groundbreaking effort in this area.