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Coalition of Visual Artist Associations

Copyright Small Claims White Paper Released by Visual Arts Associations

While there has been a great deal of discussion recently about the possibility of Congress creating a small claims process for visual arts, several visual artist groups, representing hundreds of thousands of creators, have joined forces to propose key components of potentially forthcoming small claims legislation. Collectively, the groups represent photographers, photojournalists, videographers, illustrators, graphic designers, artists, and other visual artists as well as their licensing representatives.

The white paper, which can be viewed here, advocates for the creation of a small claims tribunal within the U.S. Copyright Office. The document is collaboration between 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).

These organizations have identified the creation of a small claims option to be their most urgent legislative priority before Congress. They assert that the cost and burden of maintaining a lawsuit in the only existing venue for hearing copyright infringement claims — federal district courts — is prohibitive and all too often leaves visual artists no way to vindicate their rights. They see a small claims process within the Copyright Office as providing a fair, cost-effective and streamlined venue in which they can seek relief for relatively modest copyright infringement claims.

The Graphic Artists Guild opines that the goal of an alternate, small-value, copyright infringement court system is to encourage proper business practices and the licensing of copyrighted works, as well as discourage unauthorized use. The procedure and system ought to be easy to use by both parties, with expeditious results and lower costs for the process, and with evidentiary requirements to deter false claims. More rights holders will be able to get monetary compensation from unauthorized users. Users will be aware that it is more cost-effective to contact the rights holder and pay a licensing fee rather than infringe, because rights holders will have easier access to legal recourse.

This negotiated document, which lays out the basic framework for small claims legislation, is in large part consistent with the legislative recommendations set out in the “Copyright Small Claims” report released in late 2013 by the U.S. Copyright Office. In some instances, the white paper offers alternative suggestions to those put forth by the Copyright Office.

The visual artists’ organizations listed above have now distributed this legislative proposal for a copyright small claims tribunal to members of Congress, the United States Copyright Office, the members of the undersigned organizations, and other important copyright stakeholders.



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