I practiced law for 10 years before I quit and switched to photography. It was not that I hated practicing law, but I just LOVED photography and so jumped tracks and became a photographer.
A few years ago, I got involved with national advocacy efforts on behalf of all visual artists to help reform our rather flawed copyright system. Through my participation in the Coalition of Visual Artists (an informal alliance of visual arts groups like ASMP, PPA, NANPA, NPPA, Graphic Artists Guild, etc., I have tried to help efforts to reform the system so that it actually works for all visual artists.
I am still learning the ins and outs of copyright law and the way our copyright system works (both practically and politically).
I have been privileged to learn from industry leaders and some of the best copyright lawyers in the country. As a photographer with a legal background I have a unique perspective that allows me to advocate for reforms built around the way visual artists really work.
The Copyright Alternative Small Claims Enforcement Act (CASE Act) that would established a much needed, less formal small-claims type process for resolving copyright infringement disputes. As part of the Coalition of Visual Artists and through my membership in ASMP, NANPA and PPA, I have worked alongside many others to help get the CASE Act enacted into law.
The CASE Act has passed the House of Representatives and is currently pending in the Senate. I have made multiple trips to Washington DC to help lobby elected representatives to pass the CASE Act, and have appeared on several Congressional discussion panels. It has been a privilege to help the effort, alongside so many other advocates for the visual arts.
In the summer of 2019, Senator Thom Tillis from North Carolina started a process to assess and propose legislative reforms to current copyright law and set out a series of “roundtable” discussions with industry leaders in Washington DC to discuss the issue of modernization.
Over the late summer and fall, I traveled to Washington DC as a representative at the roundtable for ASMP and PPA and was initially the only actual creator in a room full of industry lobbyists and lawyers. That process allowed us a rare opportunity to raise the issues that visual artists like me have with the copyright system with the powers that be. As a result of that process, Senator Tillis drafted the Copyright Office Modernization Act of 2020 and plans to introduce it to the Senate this spring. The legislation would address many issues of importance for visual artists and if passed, would be a significant step in the right direction.
In 2018, the Copyright Office proposed fee increases that would have raised fees for group registration of photographs from $55 to $100. On behalf of the Coalition, I drafted a Comment re Registration Fees in opposition to that fee increase.
The Copyright Office recently issued its formal rule and our efforts paid off, as the Copyright Office decided not to raise fees for us, base largely on the arguments we made.
At the end of 2018, the Copyright Office sent out a “Notice of Inquiry” on the topic of modernizing our copyright registration system.
I took the lead in drafting a the Coalition of Visual Artists’ Comment on Registration Modernization that comprehensively set out our vision of what a modernized copyright system would look like for visual artists like photographers, graphic artists and illustrators.
The Copyright Office recently sent out a Notice of Inquiry asking for comments on the topic of “publication”. In a recent Comment on Online Publication I took the lead in drafting for the Coalition, we explained to the Copyright Office why current statutory requirements that photographers list the date and nation of first “publication” of every work they register is extremely burdensome to photographers. The Comment also sets forth what the Copyright Office should do to fix the problem (from clarifying the definition to making the listing of publication optional).