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New Copyright Compendium bans works produced by “nature, animals, and plants” and implicitly uses monkey selfie as example

September 3rd, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , ,

In the recently released U.S. Copyright Compendium, which lays out regulations about the registration process for copyrights, one sentence stood out from the rest of the 1200-page document, and is as follows: “The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants, which includes a photograph taken by a monkey.” It stood out because three years ago, David Slater, a British photographer, traveled to Indonesia to photograph monkeys. While there, he had his camera snatched by a monkey and the monkey ended up taking some amazing photographs with his camera. Slater published these photos, and later discovered that one of them was published on Wikipedia without his permission. Slater wanted the photo taken down, and while Wikipedia at first complied, another editor later revisted the decision and reposted the image, because the editor took the position that the photo was taken by the monkey and not Slater, thus making it public domain. A lively debate over whether Slater owned the copyright ensued. Slater maintains that he owns the copyright, noting that “there are many wildlife photographers that regularly employ animals to push the shutter button.  Pressure pads, trip wires, beam splitters – all devices attached to a camera that allows an animal to ‘take’ a photograph. In my case it was an attached cable release.”

For an interesting analysis of the Compendium and the monkey selfie see: “Return to the Snapshots of the Apes,” by Terry Hart. Also see: “Wikimedia Says When a Monkey Takes a Selfie, No One Owns It,” by Louise Stewart. For a tongue-in-cheek read on what the monkey had to say see:  “A Statement Statement From the Monkey,” by Bill Barol.

It is important to remember that the policy set forth in the U.S. Copyright Compendium is not binding upon the U.S. Copyright Office or the Register of Copyrights. It is only “the administrative manual of the Register of Copyrights concerning Title 17 of the United States Code and Chapter 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations, and provides instruction to agency staff regarding their statutory duties and expert guidance to copyright applicants, practitioners, scholars, the courts, and members of the general public regarding institutional practices and related principles of law.”

While the Compendium is not law, it certainly does influence law making in the realm of copyrights. Therefore, concerned photographers should comment on the Compendium, through the federal register. According to the Copyright Office the Compendium “will remain in draft form for 120 days [from August 19, 2014] pending final review and implementation, taking effect on or around December 15, 2014.” The public may submit comments to the Copyright Office regarding the Compendium up until that date.

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to clarify that Wikipedia initially complied with the takedown request, and later changed its mind, and to include a quote from David Slater.

Posted in Cameras, copyright, copyright infringement, multimedia, photographers, photojournalism, U.S. Copyright Office | No Comments »

Additional Comments Filed by NPPA and Other Groups Following Orphan Works Roundtables

May 27th, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Additional comments were filed by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) on May 20, 2014 on the issue of Orphan Works and Mass Digitization, as a follow-up to roundtable discussions held by the U.S. Copyright Office in Washington, DC on March 10-11, 2014. (See: http://www.copyright.gov/orphan/transcript/0310LOC.pdf and http://www.copyright.gov/orphan/transcript/0311LOC.pdf for transcripts of day 1 and 2 of those discussions).

The filing by NPPA supplemented additional post-roundtable comments submitted by the Digital Medial Licensing Association (PACA) on behalf of the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), the American Photographic Artists, Inc. (APA), the American Society Of Media Photographers (AMSP), the Graphic Artists Guild (GAG) as well as NPPA) in response to a Notice of Inquiry issued by the U.S. Copyright Office in February,  2014. These most recently submitted comments expanded on initial comments (submitted by NPPA to the Register on January 24, 2013).

The comments primarily responded to discussions at the round table from stakeholders who think that orphan works legislation is no longer necessary given their increased reliance on the doctrine of fair use. It is the position of the NPPA that, while the doctrine of fair use can be used as an affirmative defense, it is certainly is not broadly available to allow the use of photos without permission, credit or compensation. “This one size fits all approach appears to be what is turning Title 17 law on its head with copyright now becoming the exception to fair use. Rather than conducting a proper balancing of the four fair use factors, a number of courts have made such ruling once they determine that a use is transformative. NPPA asserts that this type of analysis was never intended to be applied as the sole determinative element in making a fair use ruling in an individual copyright infringement case, let alone in one involving mass digitization of millions of works,” wrote NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher and advocacy committee chair Alicia Wagner Calzada (who is also an attorney) in their jointly drafted comments.

The problem of social media websites automatically stripping out any and all identifying metadata when images are uploaded to their sites, thus creating instant orphans of contemporary work, is also “an issue that needs to be addressed more seriously and, once properly resolved, would help rectify most of the orphan works concerns expressed by users,” the NPPA comments concluded.

Posted in copyright, copyright infringement, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, Orphan Works, photographers, photojournalism, U.S. Copyright Office | No Comments »

NPPA Submits Comments Regarding Orphan Works

January 26th, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA) has, in response to a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) by the Copyright Office, submitted comments on the issue of orphan works and mass digitalization. The Copyright Office has solicited comments for use in advising Congress on how to address current issues involving copyright and orphan works.

These official comments, written by NPPA attorneys Mickey Osterreicher and Alicia Calzada, with contributions from board member Greg Smith and NPPA intern Joan Blazich, discuss the issues currently facing visual journalists regarding copyright and propose solutions for creating a system which would treat copyright holders and users of orphaned works fairly and efficiently.

The comments state that “NPPA is gravely concerned that in seeking to address the frustration of ‘good faith users’ of Orphan Works in order to cure their potential liability and ‘gridlock in the digital marketplace,’ the Copyright Office may create a far more serious problem for authors/owners of visual works.” The comments also note that “As visual journalists, our members are squeezed from every side by onerous contracts seeking all rights for little compensation, the proliferation of user generated content by publishers and the widespread infringement of visual works by individuals and organizations. While we understand and appreciate the concerns of those in the copyright community who need to use Orphan Works, we believe it is crucial to protect the copyright of recently created visual works that, for whatever reason, appear to be orphaned when, in fact, they are not.”

NPPA attorneys Osterreicher and Calzada plan to attend the Copyright Office’s public hearings on orphan works once dates and times for those hearings are announced. As more visual journalists face situations in which their images are misappropriated under an “orphan works” claim, the NPPA proposes that if any legislation is enacted, it must include language that protects authors from predatory practices by those who would infringe upon our members’ work with impunity under the protection of a new law.

“Photographers are lucky to have advocates like Mickey, Alicia, Greg and Joan, who spend a great deal of time examining these issues and and how they will affect our members and all those who create content,” said NPPA President Mike Borland.  “The orphan works issue won’t be resolved soon and it certainly won’t be resolved properly without our voice being heard,” he added.

In accordance with that goal, the comments recommend significant limitations on what works qualify as orphans and which users would be entitled to such  protection. In addition, the NPPA advocated for registration of any uses of orphan works, along with a bond or insurance requirement to protect rights holders’ financial interests in the event they come forward to make a claim.

To read the NPPA’s comments, click here. To read the Copyright Office’s current NOI, click here. To read about previous Copyright Office inquiries on the subject of orphan works click here.

Posted in copyright, copyright infringement, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, Orphan Works, Photographers' Rights, U.S. Copyright Office, Visual Journalists | No Comments »

NPPA Submits Comments Regarding A Copyright Small Claims Court System

October 22nd, 2012 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA) has, at the request of the Copyright Office, submitted comments concerning the creation of a copyright small claims court system. These comments constitute the second round of commentary requested by the Copyright Office over the possibility of instituting a small claims copyright court system.

These official comments, written by NPPA attorneys Mickey Osterreicher and Alicia Calzada, with a significant contribution by board member Greg Smith and NPPA intern Joan Blazich, discusses the issues currently facing photojournalists regarding copyright and presents potential solutions for creating a court system that would permit an efficient and cost-effective method of addressing copyright small claims.

“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,” Osterreicher 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 Copyright Office will hold public hearings on these issues in New York City on November 15-16, 2012 and in Los Angeles on November 26-27, 2012. It is holding these discussions to learn more about the topics listed in its August 23, 2012 Notice of Inquiry and the comments submitted in response to that Notice, as well as the comments in response to the initial October 27, 2012 Notice of Inquiry.

The New York City hearings will be held at the Jerome Greene Annex of Columbia Law School, 410 West 117th Street, New York, New York 10027. The November 15 hearing will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and the November 16 hearing will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The Los Angeles hearings will be held in Room 1314 of the UCLA School of Law, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90095. The November 26 hearing will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and the November 27 hearing will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

NPPA attorneys Osterreicher and Calzada plan to participate in those meetings to advocate for NPPA’s proposals. 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.

Read NPPA’s comments here:

Posted in copyright, Copyright Small Claims, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, U.S. Copyright Office | No Comments »

A strong example of why copyright matters

July 13th, 2012 by Alicia Calzada

We all talk about how important copyright is as a way to protect our income. However, copyright serves a greater purpose than just a revenue source. It permits the author/artist/creator to control how their work is used. Controlling the uses of your images is incredibly important.

Consider this recent case that is getting a lot of attention. Photographer Kristina Hill took an engagement photo  of a same-sex couple, which one of the grooms posted on his blog. A conservative group then stole the image and turned it into an anti-gay attack ad, targeting a politician for her vote in support of same sex unions.

The original photo by Kristina Hill

The mailer including the stolen, digitally manipulated photograph.

The couple, obviously was distressed. One of the men wrote in a blog post, “I’m in shock and I’m angry and I’m hurt and I’m flabbergasted and I’m livid.” Given all that his community had been through to legalize gay marriage, he was angry that “someone, a stranger, will seek out your image on the internet… steal it and use it in an attempt to destroy others who support you.

So here we have a photographer, whose client was clearly devastated by a use of her photo that was never intended by the photographer or the client. Whether the issue is a wedding photographer protecting her clients from a hate campaign, a wildlife photographer wanting to keep his images from being used by organizations that harm the environment, or a journalist wanting to protect a sensitive source, copyright gives photographers the power to stop such use.

Unfortunately, as much as this incident is proof of the importance of copyright protection, it is also evidence that the system is broken.  Ms. Hill told Photo District News last week that she planned to pursue it, but was uncertain whether or not she has the resources to do so, given that a lawsuit could drag on extensively. She has since obtained representation from the Southern Poverty Law Center which sent a cease and desist letter on her behalf this week. Good for her for finding a solution to protect her clients by defending her images.

If there were ever a reason to pursue an infringement, theft of a photo which vilifies your client is it. The fact that Ms. Hill was faced with the possibility of not pursuing the infringer because of the cost shows how important it is to improve the system for obtaining relief from infringement. This is why the NPPA supports a small claims solution for copyright infringement claims. Regardless of whether or not there are provable financial damages, it should not cost tens of thousands of dollars to get an injunction against uses like this.

If copyright law is not enforceable, it is virtually useless.

 

 

Posted in copyright, Copyright Small Claims, Legal, photographers, Photographers' Rights, U.S. Copyright Office | No Comments »

NPPA SUBMITS COMMENTS TO COPYRIGHT OFFICE IN OPPOSITION TO PROPOSED REGISTRATION FEE INCREASE

May 14th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher

In response to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by the U.S. Copyright Office “proposing the adoption of new fees for the registration of claims, recordation of documents, special services, Licensing Division services, and processing of FOIA requests” the NPPA, today submitted comments requesting that the Copyright Office  reconsider and revise its proposed fee increases as well as streamline the registration process.

In addition to those suggestions the NPPA also included the results of its recent survey on this matter. Based upon comments received and past experience with this issue, NPPA believes that copyright registration is seen by many photojournalists as an almost unaffordable luxury rather than a basic tool to protect one’s work. Increasing the cost of registration fees will almost guarantee that fewer of these images will be registered, thus contributing to both the inability of photojournalists to enforce their copyright and the lack of access to deposits of valuable historical records. Photojournalists would benefit from either significantly lower fees for single work registration, a subscription-type program that did not require fees per-work, or both.

NPPA Copyright Fee Comments with Exhibits 05-14-12

 

Posted in copyright, Copyright registration fees, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, photographers, photojournalism, U.S. Copyright Office | 1 Comment »