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First Policy Proposal from Judiciary Committee Hearings Released

Posted by Advocacy Liaison on December 08, 2016

Washington DC, Dec. 8, 2016

John ConyersBob GoodlatteThe Graphic Artists Guild welcomes the first policy proposal resulting from the Judicary Committee’s review of U.S. copyright law, released by House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (left) and Ranking Member John Conyers (right). The proposal hits upon many concerns raised by visual artists associations: the autonomy of the Copyright Office, modernization of the Office’s IT infrastructure, and copyright small claims reform.

The proposal addresses four major areas: the autonomy of the Copyright office and nomination process of the Register of Copyrights; creation of ad-hoc committees to advise the office on technological advances; IT modernization, including the “searchable, digital database of historical and current copyright ownership information”; and the creation of a copyright small claims system to handle low-value copyright infringement cases.

Fairness for Small Creators Act Introduced

Posted by Advocacy Liaison on December 08, 2016

Washington DC, Dec. 8, 2016

Rep. Lamar SmithRep. Judy ChuThe Graphic Artists Guild applauds the introduction of H.R. 6496, the “Fairness for Small Creators Act” introduced by Rep. Judy Chu [D-NY] and Rep. Lamar Smith [R-TX]. The bill seeks the establishment of a “small claims system within the Copyright Office,” which would provide individual creators an affordable avenue to enforce their copyrights. Small rights holders, such as illustrators, graphic designers, and other visual artists, find the cost of the current system is prohibitively expensive, and are deterred from enforcing their copyrights. This is occuring as online distribution channels and technologies have facilitated rampant infringement of visual works, and as visual artists see income from licensing plummet.

The establishment of a small claims system could go far to redress this situation. H.R. 6496 is the second bill to be introduced which proposes a copyright small claims solution. In July of this year, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries [D-NY] and Rep. Tom Marino [R-PA] introduced H.R. 5757, “The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2016”. We look forward to working with members of Congress in seeing coypright small claims legislation enacted.

Working with a coalition of visual artist organizations, the Graphic Artists Guild has long advocated for small claims legislation. In a white paper released earlier this year, the coalition recommended the establishment of a copyright small claims tribunal consistent with “Copyright Small Claims,” a report issued by the Copyright Office in September 2013. Coalition members include 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).

DesignCensus: Respond to AIGA’s Comprehensive Survey of the Design Sector by December 16

Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 30, 2016

Google and AIGA have collaborated on Design Census, a survey to map the educational level, lifestyle, and work habits of designers around the world. International design organizations ico-D, iDSA, and IxDA are supporting partners, as well as SEGD and the National Endowment of the Arts (among others) in the US. The survey is an extension of AIGA’s design survey, and was devised to understand “the complex economic, social, and cultural factors shaping the design practice today.” The survey will be open from December 1-16, and preliminary results will be published shortly afterwards. Designers are encouraged to respond by December 16.

In an attempt to ensure respondents take the survey only once, survey takers must log in with either a Twitter, Google, or AIGA account (all of which are one-way encrypted). The survey responses, though, are entirely anonymous. As a way to encourage engagement with the survey, AIGA is encouraging people to respond to the survey results by creating any content – website, image, poster, animation – which expresses their website, and post it with #designcensus2016.

DesignCensus opening graphic

Free Art Licensing Q&A with J’net Smith, December 14

Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 29, 2016

J’net SmithJ’net Smith of All Art Licensing is running her free Q&A on art licensing on December 14th. The session is open to designers, illustrators, cartoonists, and surface designers. Registrants can submit their questions in advance, and Smith typically covers 15-25 questions in each session. Because of the popularity of the sessions, participants are encouraged to register early to get their questions in the queue. Participants will also receive a free copy of Smith’s ebook, 20 Rules for Starting Your Art Licensing Business.

J’net Smith has contributed frequently to Guild resources. Most recently, she conducted a Guild webinar, “The New Art Licensing: Beyond the Basics,” which was well received this fall. She also extends a discount to Guild members on her licensing products and services. Currently, that discount is 25% off on all products and services, available for Guild members only through December 31st.

Judge Dismisses Photographer’s $1 Billion Case Against Getty Images

Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 25, 2016

Earlier, we reported on the lawsuit brought by photographer Carol Highsmith against Getty Images and other parties when she discovered they were invoicing users of her photographs, which she had put into the public domain. Getty Images and another stock agency, Alamy, were licensing photographs taken by Highsmith, which she had put into the public domain in an agreement with US Library of Congress. Highsmith became aware that Getty and Alamay were licensing her photographs when she received an invoice from License Compliance Services on behalf of Alamy, accompanied by a letter claiming she was using the images without their permission.

Highsmith sued Getty and Alamy for $1 billion, stating that since Getty is a repeat offender in copyright violation, statutory damages should be trebled. The defendant’s legal counsel pointed out, however, that the plaintiffs were conflating copyrights with rights management. Since Highsmith had placed her photographs in the public domain, both Getty and Alamy are legally permitted to license the images, and Highsmith has no copyrights to assert on those images. (Public domain works may be commercialized, as in the Dover Publications Design Library collections of public domain clip art and images.)

Highsmith did not sue for copyright infringement, but rather for violation of provisions the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  According to Lexology, Highsmith’s lawsuit made three major allegations — that Getty, Alamy, and the co-defendants:
1)  violated a provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which forbids the alteration or removal of copyright management information (17 U.S.C. § 1202) Highsmith’s agreement with the Library of Congress stated that her credit line must be included with any use of her images. Getty and Alamy altered or removed Highsmith’s credit line, and added their own watermarks and credit lines);
2)  engaged in false advertising under the Lanham Act by implying that they were working on concert with Highsmith;
3)  similarly, violated New York General Business Law § 349, which forbids businesses from engaging in “deceptive acts or practices.” 

On October 17, the judge presiding in the case, US District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, indicated that he was considering dismissing a number of Highsmith’s claims. According to Law360, the October 17 hearing largely focused on the claims relative to the New York General Business Law, indicating that the judge had already come to a decision on the other claims. In fact, on October 28, the judge dismissed all of Highsmith’s claims except those related to the New York General Business Law. 

That left Highsmith’s lawsuit severely weakened. On November 16, the parties settled over the remaining New York State claims. (The terms of that settlement have not been disclosed.) The judge dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning that Highsmith is forbidden from filing another lawsuit on these grounds. 

Below: Highsmith’s public domain image, which Alamay invoiced her for.
Credit: Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division 

Carol Highsmith Nelson Atkins Art Museum in Kansas City, MO

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