Monday, January 22, 2018

Significant Changes at The US Copyright Office

The US Copyright Office for months have been working behind the scenes to codify new rules for group registrations of photographs, and they were released last week. In short, they are bad news for photographers, with very little good news.

For almost a decade, we have been registering, monthly, several thousand of our images in a single registration, for one registration fee. Some times, these were less than a thousand, and sometimes they were more than 5,000 images. 

 Here is the video that details how we have been doing them:

In less than a month, the limit is going to be 750 images, TOTAL, on a single registration. This means that a group registration of 5,500 images that I could previously register for $55 using the online eCO, will now cost me $520, or almost a ten-fold increase. (Source: Library of Congress fees).

It is disturbing that there is little extra cost (that is, a few additional sheets of certificate paper) for a 5,500 image registration than for a 750 image registration, so it makes no sense as to why this change has occurred.

While the new rules are the same for both a group registration of published photographs (GRPPH) and a group of unpublished photographs (GRUPH), this doesn't alleviate how much more work it is going to be for photographers, and how much more expensive it is.

Here are the new requirements:
  • Every image must be in a separate document in list form, and this list is not created until you have submitted your registration, and receive a case number from the eCO
  • Photos can only be JPEG, TIF, and GIF, and all should be in a .ZIP file, and the total size of the file must be 500MB or less
  • You'll still page the $55 fee, but the link above lists a $65 fee now as well
  • You can no longer use a paper registration, it's online only
  • The registration requires that you're the only author
  • Every image must have it's own title, as we recommend in the video above, not just a single title
  • the entire group must also have a title, also as we recommend in the above video
 The document has to list in a very specific manner, the title of the work, the filename of the work as stored in the ZIP file, and the date of first publication.  So, a work I created today at the US Capitol covering the reopening of the government would be:

TITLE: 20180122_CongressPressConf0987  FILE: 20180122_CongressPressConf0987.JPG  DATE: 01/22/2018

While this is easily automatable, it is an additional steps that adds to the hassle.

Then, the required attached document, in list form, using Excel, would something be named something like:

A group of published photographs by John Harrington CaseNo000000.xls

Then title of the work would be:

"A group of published photographs by John Harrington"

On the plus side, the Copyright Office has specified that now it is no longer a question as to whether or not the individual images registered as a part of a group registration are covered individually or not, they are now. So if someone were to say you were entitled to only a single statutory award of up to $150,000 if someone infringes on 5 images that all were in a single registration, your maximum statutory award would be $150k x 5, or $750,000. Whereas now,  That argument now is supposedly laid to rest. That is, until a court case challenges it.

Another significant improvement to the regulations is that the photographers who use assistants or other photographers to work under them on a work-made-for-hire basis can now register multiple photographers all on the same registration for one fee, provided that the legal author of all the photographs is the same, as it is when second shooters work on a work-made-for-hire basis (with the necessary contract signed beforehand). Previously one would have to file a separate registration for photographs made by each additional photographer even if  they were working on a WMFH basis.

Here is the final rule (LINK):
After soliciting comments in late 2016, the U.S. Copyright Office adopted a final rule, effective February 20, 2018, governing group registration of photographs. The final rule modifies the procedure for registering groups of published photographs (GRPPH), and establishes a similar procedure for registering groups of unpublished photographs (GRUPH). The final rule adopts a new requirement that applicants seeking copyright registrations for groups of photographs—both published and unpublished—must generally submit applications through the Office’s electronic registration system, and can include up to 750 photographs in each claim. The final rule also modifies the deposit requirement by requiring applicants to submit their contributions in a digital format and to upload those files through the electronic system; clarifies the eligibility requirements; and confirms that a group registration issued under GRPHH or GRUPH covers each photograph in the group, each photograph is registered as a separate work, and the group as a whole is not considered a compilation or a collective work.
For all the details, visit this link here at the eCO.  So if you're behind on your registrations, be sure to get them all done before 2/19/2018, as these changes go into effect on February 20th, 2018.

(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Take Action Now – Copyright Simplified

One of the many reservations photographers have to putting up any sort of official objection – that is, to file a lawsuit in court – is the cost and time associated with doing so. Further, their objections include the cost of hiring an attorney, and then paying them again, and again, and again. Then, there’s the reservation because, well, they didn’t register the copyright before the infringement. This all leads up to the idea that copyright protections don’t really help the individual photographer, they’re designed to protect corporate interests, so why bother doing anything at all?

This apathy has caused a downward spiral in copyright registrations, and the inverse is the case for infringements. Photographers feel helpless, and some fear sharing their work in any capacity online will result in large-scale theft of their work, so they don’t.

Enter small claims court.  In civil proceedings, if you have a disagreement that is minor (some jurisdictions cap it at $10k - $30k), you can come before a judge, present your case and evidence, and the judge will decide. It’s Judge Judy without the cameras and studio lighting. No jury, and, no expensive attorneys if you’re an individual.  It’s quick, and usually painless. In the world of copyright, to date, you have had to file a federal lawsuit and jump through a lot of hoops and hire a seasoned lawyer to help you through the process.  If the The “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017” or the “CASE Act of 2017” becomes law, that won’t be your only option. 

This solution -  the Copyright Small Claims Board, proposes a small claims procedure would allow for an individual copyright holder to bring a claim where the cap on the award is $30,000, and does not require you to hire an attorney to represent you. While I would recommend you hire an attorney in matters such as this, in some instances, an attorney is not necessary.  And, as far as how much it would cost you to file a copyright claim? The act stipulated “a filing fee in such amount as may be prescribed in regulations established by the Register of Copyrights, which amount shall be at least $100, shall not exceed the cost of filing an action in a United States district court.”  So, for $100 or a bit more, and without an attorney, you can get the ball rolling where someone has infringed your work.

This looks to be an amazing solution where a website or t-shirt vendor or even a magazine has stolen your work. Has someone stolen your work and posted it on their instagram account? Here’s your solution, provided it becomes law. The Copyright Alliance has more information here - - and visit this link – a streamlined way for you to contact your member of congress.

(Continued after the Jump)

David Trust, CEO of the Professional Photographers of America explains it thusly:

Tom Kennedy, Executive Director of ASMP stated that “the introduction of the CASE Act is a critical step in the several years-long effort by ASMP and its colleagues in the creative community to correct an historic inequity in the copyright law: the failure of the law to provide individual creators with an effective and affordable means to combat infringements of their creative works—an especially vexing problem in a digital environment where piracy occurs at the click of a mouse.”

The NPPA, back in 2012, pointed out that  “While much of the advocacy by NPPA deals with access issues and the right to photograph and record in public; it cannot be understated that without the ability to affordably protect one’s copyright visual journalists will soon be out of business,” Mickey Osterreicher, NPPA general counsel said. “That is why it is so important that the Copyright Office support a new initiative that will address this critical issue,” he added. The NPPA went on to note that "As many photojournalists face situations involving copyright claims that amount to a limited amount of damages, the NPPA strongly supports the creation of a copyright small claims court system by the Copyright Office that would permit photojournalists to resolve such claims in an expedited and cost effective manner."

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