The founders of the United States believed so much in an author’s right to his own work that it’s written into the constitution. A bill is before the House of Representatives that will finally give those of us who create an affordable option to protect our rights as creators.
While I’ve taken a bit of a sabbatical from commercial photography to work on film and theatre projects, I still find myself daily battling with copyright issues. As artists, writers, creators of content, and creators of entertainment, we want to create work that people want steel, but we also want to protect that same work. Under the US Constitution, we are granted certain rights as creators. In fact, the only right granted in the constitution (excluding the bill of rights and amendments) is that of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, “The Congress shall have power to promote the progress of Science and the useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The founders of the United States believed so much in an author’s right to his own work that it’s written into the constitution.
In the 17 years that I’ve been shooting commercial photography, while I have threatened legal action against those who infringe upon my work, I have not once been able to afford the cost of actually taking a copyright infringer to court. Because copyright is granted under federal law, a lawsuit for infringement requires a federal lawsuit. Thankfully, in most instances, sending an invoice for the infringement, along with legal demand letters from my attorney has resulted in compensation for the infringement. In some cases, I just had to let the infringer get away with it.
And that is a problem for artists of all types – Photographers, Illustrators, Authors, Songwriters, and other creators of copyrighted works. As American Photographic Artists (APA, a non-profit trade association dedicated to protecting the rights of photographers that I’ve been a member of for years) puts it, “enforcing their rights is not feasible.”
APA, ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers), PPA (Professional Photographers of America), along with several other trade groups in the Copyright Alliance, has been working to ask Congress to pass a bill that would create a “copyright small claims tribunal.” This has been a long time coming and is a necessity to allow those of us who create and register our artistic work an easy and streamlined option to protect those works when they are infringed upon.
A bill is before the House of Representatives, H.R. 3945 – The CASE Act of 2017, that will finally give those of us who create an affordable option to protect our rights as creators. Bills like this have been discussed for years, but it seems that maybe it is finally gaining traction.
The Copyright Alliance Small Claims Working Group has declared January 17, 2018 as Small Claims Day. Today is the day to reach out to your legislators and show your support for the bill by asking them to co-sponsor the bill. The Copyright Alliance has provided a tool for finding your legislator’s contact information here.
Also, be sure to share your support for HR3945 on social media using the hashtags: #HR3945 #UniteforCopyright #SmallClaimsDay.
This bill has been a long time coming. Today, Small Claims Day, make it your mission to show your support for HR 3945.
Kevin Michael Reed is a theatre maker from New York City living in Dublin and London. His production credits have included producer, director, playwright, dramaturg and designer. He is Artistic Director of Squire Lane Theatrical UK, a theatre production company specialising in developing new works for the stage. He holds a BFA in Photography from the Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY), a MA in Playwriting from City, University of London, and a MFA in Theatre Directing from The Lir, National Academy of Dramatic Art, Trinity College Dublin.