On Tuesday the NPPA submitted official comments to the U.S. Copyright Office in response to the office’s request for comments on the idea of creating a system to adjudicate copyright infringements when the damages are low, also called Remedies for Small Copyright Claims.
The brief, written by NPPA attorneys Mickey Osterreicher and Alicia Wagner Calzada, with a significant contribution from board member Greg Smith, outlines the challenges specific to photojournalists, notes characteristics that would be important in the solution and presents ideas for framing a system.
A claim for copyright infringement can only be brought in federal court, but lawsuits in federal court cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, making it rare that a photojournalist will find the claim worth bringing. In addition, the rapid turnaround of news photography makes it virtually impossible for photojournalists to register their work prior to publication, which results in increased risk in bringing a case. Although a successful copyright plaintiff can sometimes get an award of legal fees, there is no guarantee that the defendant will be able to pay those fee. As the comment notes, “For those infringements that are discovered, most will never be prosecuted because it is economically unfeasible for the creators to commence an action in federal court.”
A small claims solution for infringements that are not worth hundreds of thousands of dollars would increase the ability of photojournalists to police their work and get compensated fairly for violations of their copyright.
NPPA is looking forward to working on this potential solution with the copyright office and with other photo organizations.
Read the official final_Copyright Small Claims Comments 01-17-12-1