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There’s Work to Do on Copyright Small Claims

Posted by Advocacy Liaison on January 19, 2018

We've never been this close.  

For years, creators and visual arts organizations like ours have been asking for a copyright small claims court. In 2016, two bills that were introduced into the House sought to establish such a court, and just last October, the CASE Act (H.R. 3945) was introduced. The CASE Act is widely supported; representatives from both sides of the aisle have signed on to co-sponsor the bill, and articles posted in trade journals, news publications, and industry blogs welcome it.

Why is a copyright small claims court getting so much attention?

The system currently in place for protecting copyrights simply doesn't work well for individual creators. If your work has been infringed, your only recourse is to take the infringer into federal court – a process that is expensive, time-consuming, and confusing.  You’ll need to hire a lawyer, and yet many lawyers won’t take on infringment lawsuits where the potential award is under $30,000, far beyond what can be expected in than many small infringement cases. The federal court systems works for large copyright holders — companies or individuals with high value copyright claims. But for many individual artists, the federal court system is simply out of reach.

A copyright small claims court would give individual creators an alternate path – one that is affordable, easy, and streamlined. And while the system outlined in the CASE Act limits the remedies – for example, statutory damages would be capped at $15,00/work or $30,000 total — the small claims court would be entirely voluntary. That means artists who registered their work, and who have a substantial claim, can still take the case in federal court.

There is work to be done.

While we’re thrilled with the amount of attention the bill has gotten, and the number of representatives across party lines who’ve copsponsored the bill, there is still a lot of work to do. The simple truth is that most bills die in committee. In the last session of Congress (2015-2017), only 3% of the bills introduced were enacted into law. The only way to get The CASE Act moving forward is to keep a spotlight on it. 

You can help by asking your representative to co-sponsor H.R. 3945, the CASE Act. It's easy: go to the “take action” pages on the Copyright Alliance website or on Copyright Defense

If your representative is already co-sponsoring the bill, shoot them an email and tell them thank you. Then spread the word to your friends, family, colleagues, teachers, co-workers, etc. Direct them to this article, and to the Copyright Alliance and Copyright Defense pages. 

Below: the Capitol Building, viewed during our January trip to lobby for copyright small claims.© Graphic Artists Guild

The Capitol

Space Exploration Posters, Courtesy of the Jet Propulsion Lab

Posted by Rebecca Blake on December 28, 2017

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab gave us all a lovely holiday gift: a series of space exploration posters, free for downloading and printing. The series, titled Visions of the Future, channels retro poster design from the WPA-era to tout vacation destinations such as Ceres, Jupiter, and Kepler-186f (the first earth-sized planet speculated to be capable of sustaining life). The files can be downloaded as high resolution TIFFs or PDFs, at 20x30”.

The posters are the creation of “The Studio,” a team of designers, illustrators, and visual strategists at the JPL. The Studio creates visuals, such as the space exploration poster series, which communicate the excitement and vision of the JPL. However, their mission goes beyond that of a typical art department. In a video created by The Otis Report on the Creative Economy, Dan Goods, Visual Strategist at The Studio, and Charles Elachi, PhD, Director of the JPL, speak about the importance of the exchange of ideas and inspiration between The Studio and JPL engineers and scientists.

That collaboration is evident in the Visions of the Future poster series. While depicting fanciful interpretations of each planet and moon, The Studio staff solicited feedback from JPL scientists. That red foliage on Kepler-186f? That was inspired by the information that the light spectrum radiated by Kepler’s star is a different spectrum than earth’s sun.  On a background page on the poster series, creative strategist David Delgado, illustrator Joby Harris, and typographer Lois Kim describe the thought process behind each poster. Our only quibble with the series? We would have loved to have seen a rendition of Saturn – what would The Studio have done with those rings!?

Poster thumbnails, courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech​

Jet Propulsion Lab Visions of the Future poster thumbnails  

Credits for the posters

Creative Strategy: 
Dan Goods, David Delgado

Liz Barrios De La Torre (Ceres, Europa)
Stefan Bucher (Jupiter Design)
Invisible Creature (Grand Tour, Mars, Enceladus)
Joby Harris (Kepler 16b, Earth, Kepler 186f, PSO J318.5-22, Titan)
Jessie Kawata (Venus)
Lois Kim (Typography for Venus and Europa)
Ron Miller (Jupiter Illustration)

Health Insurance Options, Now That the Federal Enrollment Period is Over

Posted by Rebecca Blake on December 19, 2017

If you had wanted to sign up for health insurance but missed the enrollment period for the federal exchange, you may still have options to get coverage at HealthCare.gov. If you’ve experienced a qualifying life event or any number of specific conditions, you may qualify for a special enrollment period. But your first step should be to double check that your state doesn’t have a state health exchange with an enrollment period extended beyond the federal exchange.

Residents of many states no longer have access to an open enrollment; either their state never set up a health insurance exchange, requiring their residents to purchase insurance on the federal exchange, or their enrollment period has ended. Note that while the states listed below have extended enrollment periods, coverage may not begin until after February 1st. Check your state’s website for details on the coverage period, and to enroll:

•  California: January 31 https://www.coveredca.com
•  Colorado: January 12 http://connectforhealthco.com
•  District of Columbia: January 31 https://dchealthlink.com
•  Massachusetts: January 23 https://www.mahealthconnector.org
•  Minnesota: January 15 https://www.mnsure.org
•  New York: January 31 https://nystateofhealth.ny.gov
•  Rhode Island: December 31 https://healthsourceri.com
•  Washington: January 15 https://www.wahealthplanfinder.org
Residents of the remaining 42 states may be eligible to sign up for coverage under a Special Enrollment Period if they’ve experienced any of a number of life changes:

•  Gotten married
•  Had a baby, adopted, or placed a child in foster care
•  Lost insurance through divorce or legal separation
•  Lost insurance through death of a family member
•  Moved to a new zip code, county, or state, or moved to the US
•  Moved to attend school or to follow seasonal work, or from a shelter
•  Lost a job which provided health insurance
•  Lost health coverage from a plan purchased independently
•  Became ineligible for Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP
•  Turned 26 and became ineligible to be covered on a parent’s health plan

There are additional “complex issues” which can be taken into consideration when evaluating whether you are eligible for coverage under a Special Enrollment Period. These include: unexpected hospitalizations or temporary disability, technical errors at the HealthCare.gov website that prevented enrollment from going through properly, receiving incorrect information on HealthCare.gov when you selected your plan, and experiencing spousal abuse or abandonment. If you apply for consideration in a Special Enrollment Period and are denied, you can appeal the decision.

The Guild conducted a free webinar on the ACA and its options in mid-November. However, it’s been a rocky Fall for those wanting to sign up for health insurance. The repeated efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, let alone provisions in the proposed tax legislation, have made predicting insurance options and rates for 2018 extremely difficult. Our own free webinar on signing up for the ACA had to be revised the day before the webinar, and even then was outstripped by political developments in the previous 24 hours.

Below: Although the enrollment period at HealthCare.gov is over, you may still qualify for coverage.

Healthcare.gov screenshot

The Guild Joins Visual Artists for a December Lobbying Visit

Posted by Advocacy Liaison on December 08, 2017

​On December 4-5, the Guild joined our Coalition of Visual Artists for a trip to Capitol Hill to lobby on behalf of graphic artists in support of the CASE Act.  The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act was introduced by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and  Tom Marino (R-PA) in October. The Act creates a Copyright Claims Board to oversee small copyright cases in a process that for copyright holders is faster, less expensive, and simpler than the current system. While the Act has had wide bipartisan support – five co-sponsors across party lines – the Guild and Coalition members are encouraging additional Representatives to co-sponsor the bill.

The Guild joined counsel and members of the photography associations ASMP, NANPA, NPPA, PPA, and APA, as well as Copyright Alliance CEO Keith Kupferschmid, in meeting with the staffs of a number of representatives. To make the case for the CASE Act, we focused our comments on an explanation of how the very means by which graphic artists generate publicity and find new clients — online portfolios — is rampantly infringed. We also explained that with a majority of lawyers declining to take copyright infringement cases with a potential outcome of under $30,000, individual graphic artists are often left limited options when their copyrights are infringed.

The Guild will continue to lobby on behalf of the legislation, and as it works its way through committee, will work to ensure that the interests of graphic artists are reflected in the bill. We’re also asking creators to contact their representative and ask him or her to consider co-sponsoring the bill. An action portal on copyrightdefense.com has been set up for individuals to find the contact information for their representative; a sample email and telephone script have been provided.

Below: A view of the Capitol from outside the Rayburn Office Building, which houses the offices of Representatives.

Rayburn Office Building and the Capitol

Guild Responds to Copyright Office Request on Group Registrations

Posted by Advocacy Liaison on December 01, 2017

Copyright Office logoThe Graphic Artists Guild has submitted a response to a proposed rulemaking by the Copyright Office on Group Registrations of Unpublished Works. Currently, graphic artists do not have a group registration option; among visual artists, only photographers have a group registration option, and that is only for published photos. The Guild has advocated for extending a group registration option to other works of visual arts.

The proposed rulemaking by the Copyright Office establishes a new group registration option for unpublished works: up to five works may be submitted for the group registrations; all works must have the same author or joint authors; and each work must be published in the same administrative class (for example, works of the visual arts, works of the performing arts, literary works, etc.). 

Notably, the group registration option will replace the current “unpublished collection” option. In its notice in the Federal Register, the Office states that the unpublished collection option is “ineffective” since it permits the registration of an unlimited number of works, whereas a more limited option would permit the Office to more easily examine each submission for its ability to be copyrighted, resulting in a better record and more efficient system.

In our response, the Guild welcomed the extension of a group registration option for graphic works. However, we raised a number of concerns with the proposed rulemaking, notably that limiting group registration to just five individual works is unfeasible for graphic artists, who often generate a greater number of works (sketches, revisions, alternate versions) in the execution of a single project. We also asked for the Copyright Office to issue an opinion on what constitutes publication for online works since, in a digital age, the distinction between “published” and “unpublished” is often confused. 

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