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NYC’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act Hopes to Redress Non-Payment

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 26, 2016

Freelance Isn't Free banner imageIn December of last year, New York City Councilman Brad Lander introduced 1017-A, the Freelance Isn’t Free Act. The act has been championed by the Freelancers Union and founder Sara Horowitz, who launched a campaign to support and publicize the bill. An Op-Ed penned by Lander and Horowitz outlined the travails facing New York City freelancers: “more than 70% of gig workers in NYC report having been cheated out of payments, paid many months late, or paid less than they were owed. On average, these workers were stiffed out of $6,000 each year.” Freelancer are deterred from taking legal action by the high cost of lawyer’s fees, and by the financial hardship incurred by late payment. According to the op-ed, companies gamble on the chance that legal action won’t be taken, or offer a smaller payment to a freelancer desperate for funds. 

The bill attempts to address non- and late payment by requiring anyone hiring a freelancer to provide a written contract describing the work to be done and payment terms. It also requires that full payment be made with 30 days of completion of the work, or from the payment due date stipulated on the contract. To address the difficulty freelancers face in affording legal action, penalties could include double damages, attorney’s fees, and civil penalties. 

At a hearing on April 22, council members listened to testimony from over a dozen freelancers, from writers to graphic artists to consultants. Representatives from the Department of Consumer Affairs also attended, and while lauding the bill, expressed concerns that written contracts won’t forestall claims of non-delivery of or sub-standard services. In general, support for the bill seems to be strong. The Freelancers Union can take credit for conducting an effective and creative PR campaign. For example, on March 28, they published a “World’s Longest Invoice” webpage, with a  counter that totals the amount freelancers are submitting as owed. By 4 p.m. that day, the total had reached over $388,000.

The Graphic Artist Guild is a partner of the Freelancers Union, and supports the Freelance Isn’t Free bill.

(Below) In the Freelancers Union video, branding consultant Whitney Meers summarizes her support for the bill: “I support the Freelance Isn’t Free Campaign because nonpayment is theft.”

Vox Indie’s Common Sense Proposal for Google to Reduce its Massive DMCA Takedown Numbers

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 07, 2016

As the DMCA takedown notice process is being reviewed by the Copyright Office, the procedure is increasingly covered in tech news. Recently, The Verge reported that Google is currently processing over 100,000 URLs per hour. While Google has asserted that the DMCA takedown process works fine, Ellen Siedler of Vox Indie asserts that the sheer quantity is proof enough that the process does not help rights holders. Instead, in her article, “How Google could reduce its massive DMCA takedown numbers,” she takes Google to task for not taking basic steps to reduce the number of notices it receives, thereby protecting copyright holders.

As websites hosting infringed works ignore takedown requests, creators are forced to shift their focus to Google and its powerful search engine. Siedler suggests that Google temporarily block the top offenders – those which receive the most complaints – from Google’s search results for 30 days. The lack of Google search traffic would give the site operators a solid incentive to remove infringing materials, dropping the number of DMCA takedown requests. Siedler speculates that Google would only need to block the top 100 sites to have an effect, and could develop a system to extend the block by 30 day increments for sites which continue to post high numbers of takedown requests.

Vox Indie Google Piracy takedown listHowever, as Siedler points out, Google seems to be more concerned with promoting “free speech” than protecting the rights of copyright holders. In 2015, the company stated it wouldn’t block piracy websites because of free-speech concerns. And as Siedler herself has pointed out, Google’s DMCA takedown process is needlessly convoluted, deterring individual creators from protecting their intellectual property. The solution Siedler outlines sounds like a sensible middle ground. It could discourage unlawful behavior without shutting down sites which demonstrate a willingness to respect creators’ rights.

Above right: Siedler asks why viciomp3.com, which averages more than 500,000 takedown requests per week, couldn’t be temporarily blocked from Google’s search results.

Animations Educate on Copyright Ownership and Registration

Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 28, 2016

Guild member and illustrator/animator Mark Monlux has given us permission to post two animations he created covering copyright basics. Copyright & You — Defining Copyright Ownership teaches that artists who sell their original paintings do not transfer the copyrights to those paintings, and encourage artists to provide provenance in writing. The second animation, Copyright and You – Having vs Registering, outlines the additional legal protection registering copyrights affords creators. Both animations have been posted with full transcripts to our Tools and Resources pages.

The cartoons use Monlux’s whiteboard animation technique, which he employs for organizational and corporate clients (in addition to his advertising and editorial illustration, and sketchnoting). They were created as a public service announcement in collaboration with the Tacoma Artists Intitiative Program. Monlux served many years on the Guild's Executive Committee, and is recognized for his knowledge of copyright law and good trade practices for illustrators.

Below: screenshots from “Defining Copyright Ownership” (left), and “Having vs. Registering.”
© Mark Monlux.

© Mark Monlux screenshot from Defining Copyright Ownership© Mark Monlux screenshot from Having vs. Registering

Vox Indie on Google’s Roadblocks to the DMCA Takedown Process

Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 15, 2016

Independent filmmaker Ellen Siedler has long been criticizing Google for its anemic efforts in combating piracy. In one of her recent posts on her blog, Vox Indie, she explored the process Google employs for those wishing to report copyright infringement via Google’s DMCA takedown notice (“Why does Google make it so damn difficult to send a DMCA notice?”). The results were astounding: instead of a simple contact form or link, as is provided by websites such as Vimeo, Google provides a baffling nine-step report process. Siedler charted her findings in an infographic she titled “Google’s DMCA Takedown Maze.”

Siedler’s conclusion is that Google is willfully making the takedown process combursome. She summarized her findings (quoted from her article):

“Google doesn’t provide the email address of its designated DMCA agent (as required by law).

Google requires users to send takedown requests via online forms.

Google makes finding the correct form a laborious 9 step process.

Once the correct form is found, Google requires DMCA senders to login to a Google account.

Google doesn’t provide clear URL on pirated files forcing rights holders to drill down further into the abyss to find the correct URL to report the pirated file.”

Below: Siedler’s infographic charts Google’s DMCA Takedown process.
© Ellen Siedler. Used with permission.

© Ellen Siedler Google’d  DMCA Takedown Maze infographic

Deadline on Survey on DMCA Notice Extended to March 20

Posted by Advocacy Liaison on March 11, 2016

We recently requested graphic artists to respond to survey put out by the Guild and other associations. The purpose of this survey is to gather information about infringement of copyrighted images on the internet, as well as the effective use of the DMCA take-down notice. The deadline for survey responses has been extended to midnight, March 20th.

The United States Copyright Office (USCO) is conducting a public study to evaluate the effectiveness of a provision of the Copyright Act that provides Internet Service Providers (ISPs) with relief from legal action and monetary damages if they remove infringing copyrighted content expeditiously after notice.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Section 512 established a system for copyright owners and online entities to address online infringement. The legislation intended for copyright owners and ISPs to cooperate to detect and address copyright infringements and to remove the infringing content.

This is commonly referred to as the “Notice and Take Down” provision of the DMCA.
 
Copyright owners are required to send a proper notice to an ISP’s registered agent that identifies the infringing content on a particular URL and state that the use is infringing. The responsibility is on the copyright owner or its representative to identify each infringing use and send a new notice each time a work is displayed without permission.

The associations listed below will file a comment letter for this study, due on March 21, 2016. We are conducting this survey to gather information about your experiences. This is your opportunity to engage in advocacy to benefit all American creators.
 
This survey will close at midnight on Monday, March 21, 2016.

Take the Survey button

 

Thank you for your time and participation!
 
American Photographic Artists
American Society of Media Photographers
Digital Media Licensing Association
Graphic Artists Guild
National Press Photographers Association
North American Nature Photography Association
Professional Photographers of America
PLUS (The Picture Licensing Universal System)

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