As photographers who have lived and worked in the state of Oregon for decades, we’ve both worked diligently to build solid small businesses that help sustain the livelihoods of our families. Being a creator is a wonderful and extremely personal experience, and it’s one that we love and have worked hard to achieve and master.
Unfortunately, though, we’ve both experienced the “less positive” side of our business due to facing our share of infringement challenges — whereby our images are used and reproduced without a licensing deal or permission. This sort of thing happens frequently when you are a photographer (or any type of creator). And if you are a creator who runs a small business, you really don’t have any recourse to take on infringers who won’t agree to pay you for your work.
Why? The biggest challenge is how expensive and complex it is to fight infringement in federal court. If an infringer is incompliant to your attempt to get reimbursed for your work, it’s virtually impossible for a solo-creator or small biz to have any real legal recourse. Even worse is the fact that infringers know that we don’t have a viable means to protect our creative assets, despite the fact that our assets are protected by copyright. So the infringers become bolder and even more likely to have an attitude of “what are you going to do about it,” as they continue to steal the work we’ve created using our time, intellect and professional skills.
In a nutshell, the law currently provides us with rights but does not provide us with a viable means of protecting those rights; nor does it help us fight the bad actors who know they can steal our work and get away with doing so. Sadly, in our experience, the problem is not new and unfortunately is only getting more out of control.
Is there an answer to this seemingly endless and pervasive problem? Yes, fortunately, there’s a bipartisan bill on the horizon called the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, which would help accomplish a much more affordable and easy-to-navigate legal process for independent creators like us — and like countless creators across Oregon and across the U.S. — who would benefit from it.
The CASE Act would create a small claims “tribunal” within the U.S. Copyright Office where individual creators and small businesses could defend their copyrighted works in an affordable and seamless manner — one that’s fair, understandable and (very importantly) affordable.
This bill is truly a no-brainer.
It has already been passed by the Senate and House Judiciary committees; and now has 94 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, and 15 co-sponsors in the Senate. Please join us in our fight to protect our works and livelihoods, as well as the livelihoods of fellow creators across our state and country, by supporting the CASE Act. You can reach out to your elected officials in the House of Representatives, as well as our two senators — Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. Join the fight to get copyright laws updated and make your voice heard!
— Lisa Dillon is the owner of Lisa Dillon Photography and Bryan Welsh owns MIT Portraits. Their businesses are in Portland.