From NY to DC Copyright Discussions by Johnny Bivera

It has been quite a week of dialogue concerning intellectual property and copyright, from forums such as ASMP’s ‘Copyright and the New Economy’ in New York to IPI’s ‘Intellectual Property Impact on Jobs and the Global Economy’ in Washington, DC.  It all seems to be riding a tide of awareness, at least for photographers a growing consciousness concerning everyone’s need to understand and implement the registration of their original work with the copyright office (http://www.copyright.gov/eco/ ).  I share with you a few of the many discussions that happened during the week between NY and DC.

A distinguished panel of leaders at ASMPs Copyright and New Economy symposium in New York Times Center. Moderated by Jay Kinghorn, left, shares the stage with Chase Jarvis, Jeff Sedlik, Liz Ordonez, Darrell Perry, David Carson and Lawrence Lessig.

The New York symposium led by ASMP (http://asmp.org/) brought in leaders from all levels with differing points of view on the issue of copyright, its challenges and direction.  Part of its launch in a new initiative called Registration ©ounts (http://asmp.org/content/registration-counts ), ASMP leads an awareness concerning copyright issues and promoting photographers to register their work while providing tools and information necessary for registration.  Among the group of educators and leaders was presenter Brian Storm, President of Media Storm (http://www.mediastorm.org/ ), showing touching samples of their latest projects, the use of viral blogosphere marketing and predictions on the ascending use of mobile hand held devices such as the iPhone/iPad and others in place of what may become the replacement to one’s desktop computer.

Photographer Chase Jarvis makes a statement that it would be the first time that creators can also be distributors and the simply deceptive impact in transition it is having.

Also on stage in New York was enlightened photographer Chase Jarvis (http://www.chasejarvis.com/ ), who shared about his trials with mega sporting goods giant K2 back in early 2000.  They infringed on his copyright and breached contract as both parties litigated for years till Jarvis won final ruling in 2007 from the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals (http://blog.chasejarvis.com/blog/2007/06/jarvis-v-k2/ ).  This was not only a win for Jarvis but for all visual creative’s everywhere, but winning for the greater good did not come without cost to the photographer, as doing so meant turning down a seven figure settlement in place of putting the infringing company on record and establishing a defensive ground against future violators now on notice.  But in the end Jarvis left me with something to dwell on about photography amidst the polarizing legal discussion and going back as to why we do what we do he said, “What I learned about photography is that it’s not about pixels and dynamic range, but about stories and moments.”  This statement is reflective of what I tell students, but it’s nice to hear it from someone who has been through the mill and back and still feels this way about a career wrapped in a challenging economy going through an industry evolution.

The Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) conducts the Fifth Annual World Intellectual Property Day Forum in DC, as they move forward with panelist Jennifer Garcia, President LogiCreative Design, Ben Cockerham, Co-Founder & COO RightsFlow, Sam DAmico, Photographer & Educator, and Dr. Merrill Matthews, IPI Resident Scholar, were one of many that spoke that day, this panel discussed concerns on intellectual property for small and medium enterprises, IP, jobs and the economy. The Institute for Policy Innovation is a civil society public policy research organization.

On the panel for IPI’s DC forum on intellectual property is local photographer and educator Sam D’Amico, who emphasized the importance of registering one’s creative work.  “If you’re going to be a professional photographer, you have to register your work.  If you register your work and someone infringes your work, they have to prove that they had a license to do that.  If you don’t register your work, you now have to prove damages; the ball is not in the infringer’s court anymore but in yours.  You can only sue for damages, meaning how much was that picture worth in the way it was used.  So if it was only $500, attorney’s fees are going to eat that up in no time.  There’s a big difference in the potential legal remedies that you have.”  And coming from experience he went on to conclude, “Intellectual property is the foundation of your business, without your intellectual property you really have nothing.  The copyright is yours from the moment you create it; the thing about registration is now you have statutory penalties and attorneys fees on your side, so there’s a big incentive for you to register your work.”  For more on copyright and your rights, visit and become a member of the Copyright Alliance (http://www.copyrightalliance.org/ ).

Eugene Mopsik, Executive Director of ASMP addresses the panel on behalf of photographers.

Along with photographer D’Amico was ASMP Executive Director Eugene Mopsik, who took opportunity in asking Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s presence on panel by inviting him and his team to collaborate with ASMP in finding resolutions to problems concerning copyright violations against photographers.  “We would welcome that,” said Congressman Goodlatte, giving insight to his knowledge concerning copyright infringement to photographers and what his office was willing to do in partnering with ASMP, to finding resolutions benefiting photographers.  Goodlatte states, “Photography I think is a particularly difficult area because so often the identification of the author never even registers with the people who are viewing that photograph or using that photograph for their own purposes, and I think that coupled with the fact that it is so easy to make a copy of a still photograph or even a short video that this is an area where we hope for some kind of technological breakthrough that will actually work, because I think you are facing probably even more sever challenges than the music industry which is the dreaded poster child for what we don’t want to have happen in your industry or your completed work.  And people tend to forget about photography, but if you have ideas we would welcome them and we’d certainly want to work with you to protect that creative work.”

So a promising start in having a congressional leader and team on board, but it’s up to us to push and move forward with their help.  At this point it seems that certain levels of industry have shown us the way with necessary tools for registration, but the real endeavor is on us, and that’s to register our work and pass that knowledge on to others.

Story and photos by Johnny Bivera, Member ASMP

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