Fighting the wrong fight with copyright

We have been fighting the wrong fight for copyright registration. That is my opinion.

For most of my career we have told everyone that when you click your shutter you own your copyright. If you are on the payroll of a company they own that photo unless there is some written agreement giving you the copyright.

We know that is where the work-for-hire agreement came from when dealing with usage rights and copyright.

While the ownership of the copyright hasn’t been up for debate other than the who owns it based on who is paying for the creation the issue has been about the courts.

I was informed that you needed to register your copyright with copyright office to be able to collect legal fees. Those are all the fees that you can be awarded if you win a case. The judge reviews all the legal fees and does a separate ruling on how much the other side must pay for you taking this to court.

I learned early on that the going rate for copyright infringement cases was about $100,000 and took at least a year or more in the courts.

For the past 30 years ASMP and NPPA that I am a member, have spent lots of money lobbying congress to protect that process of registration.

I believe there is a better solution today. Do away with copyright registration. Get congress to change the law that if you can show copyright infringement then you can collect legal fees.

As far as the proving your images are yours there is Blockchain technology already on the market.

The idea of a blockchain — protecting data through a large network of computers — and applies the concept to managing photo rights. It is an “encrypted digital ledger of rights ownership for photographers.” Photographers can add new images as well as archive images to the system. Because of the blockchain structure, the data is stored on a large network of computers that helps create a public ledger, adds a layer of protection, and prevents data loss.

There are centralized and decentralized solutions right now available for Blockchain.

The point I make is that the current registration of your images with copyright office is out of date. With blockchain these servers can also police the web and find anyone using your images without rights.

Because Blockchain works so well with the digital photograph it will let you sell and track any usage of your images and keeps them from being used illegally since it codes images and makes them no longer easily copied and shared.

Blockchain can help us not just prove we shot an image it serves as an agency and collector.

We need to change the copyright laws and not continue to use a system that is outdated and not serving the artist community well at all.