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This article was published on 08 Nov 2012, and is filed under Events.

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A Long Road to A New Copyright Economy (USA).

On Tour with the Narrative, Hilary J. Corts, 2012

On Tuesday, October 23rd, I woke at the crack of dawn to eagerly attend the ASPP’s, New Copyright Economy Lecture, held at the Scandinavia House, NYC.  I have to say, Jessica Moon, Co-President of the New York Chapter of ASPP always puts on a meticulously rendered event. The guest speaker Chris Reed was very informative, the esteemed panel was entertaining well-chosen, everything was in place… right down to the twitter hashtags, ice coffee option and bite sized muffins.

The main speaker, Christopher Reed from the US Copyright Office (and also a photographer) went through the main concerns that “creatives” in the fields of photography, art, music and writing are facing today. Mainly that, “the industry we are in is undergoing widespread change, the views are changing and how we deal with (and create) content are constantly changing. Issues that are arising, and priorities (of both the US Copyright Office and content makers) change on a day-to-day basis.”

The biggest question coming from the Copyright office is, “How to make the copyright office relevant for the 21st Century”, with Maria Gallente now in the hierarchy of the Copyright office, she has created and is focusing on a new 2 year plan that was passed to work on a 5 year plan. All the while, we are working with a copyright model and system that was established before the “explosion” of the WWW- meaning that by the time the 5 year plan is instated, we will probably need another 2 year plan to work on the new 5 year plan. All the while US content providers are left questioning if we can take “Joe Shmoe, the blog writer” to small claims court to get a $250 web license fee from him for pirating one of “OUR” images… our question is still, How do we protect our copyright when we live in a society that doesn’t respect copyright… with a government system that still can’t acknowledge copyright?

Isabella in Phoenix, Hilary J. Corts, 2012

To date, the Government cannot place a value on creative content… most judges in small claims court don’t really understand the complexity of copyright (and all of it’s wonderful clauses) so that moves copyright cases to Federal Court with a Federal Judge. Meanwhile, there are a lot of infringements and not a lot of people are going to court for it… Why? The cost to litigate is FAR more than the “cost” or “value” of most of the content being infringed upon. Judges look to “reasonable compensation” to see what the infringement would be, before going to court. The government doesn’t know the value of creative content… so instead of what it should be (as standard)– damage of rewards are what you would have gotten for the license plus some other small amounts. The Judges usually dismiss the case.

The next main issue he touched on was, “Orphaned Works” and what constitutes a “qualified search” for orphaned works. In the case of images, we only have PACA’s program PLUS and in the music industry they have ASCAP, BMI—that keep track of performance rights and usable works. Google is a major player now in the mission to find and organize copyrighted works, especially in the effort to “Mass Digitize” content that doesn’t exist on the internet. Google aspires to make all the world’s knowledge known.  As an image-maker, one becomes weary because that would further “dwindle” the value of imagery according to the government idea of “reasonable compensation”.

Phoenix, Hilary J. Corts, 2012

Some really great points that were brought up by the panel—“Q: What is the main purpose of copyright? A: For the copyright holder to make money”– Shawn G. Henry, Photographer. This is so true because the copyright is what the content holders have so that they can ask and license their “product” for money. Without copyright, that “product has no value” and the creatives are not making money (exactly what we see happening in our creative communities today).

“…the role of the photo researcher has most definitely changed. We are looking for ease of use and flexibility… a multi-platform licensing model.” –Jackie Lissy Brustein

“Main publications, like the New Yorker, are considering usages as all one platform; web, phone, iPad and print—We won’t consider a license without the ease of getting an image that we can apply for all of these uses under one license.”– Lynn Oberlander, General Counsel, The New Yorker Magazine. As an image-maker, this concerns me because she also talked about commissioned uses and that The New Yorker would like to start keeping the images that run for future use. The combination of this thought and the above proves that the “buyers” market is moving completely to the Royalty Free Image license model and away from the more complex (better paid) Rights Managed model.

In conclusion, Christopher Reed invited everyone to join the conversation on Copyright, because we are the most important “voice” when it comes to making decisions on Copyright.

Words // Chrissy Reilly, MFA. (twitterfacebooktumblr)

Photography // Hilary J. Corts  (site, twitter, tumblr)