Annual Visual Artists Meeting Update

January 2, 2020


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In the theme of tradition, on December 4, 2019 DMLA participated in the annual in-person meeting of the Coalition of Visual Artists, held in Washington, D.C. Chaired by Alicia Calzada of the National Press Photographers Association along with all the heads and legal counsel of the major visual arts trade associations and organizations in North America to discuss current and upcoming legislation, copyright office policy and other legal actions that collectively affect the industry.

The Coalition consists of the following:

American Photographic Artists (APA);

American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP)

American Society for Collective Rights Licensing (ASCRL)

Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA)

Graphic Artists Guild (GAG)

National Press Photographers Association  (NPPA)

North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA)

Professional Photographers of America  (PPA)

PLUS Coalition 

Eugene Mopsik

Shaftel & Schmelzer

Purpose of the annual meeting and history

This important annual meeting had its start over ten years ago, when legislation was proposed to permit the use of works under copyright, where the owner could not be located, by limiting damages which required the attention of all the members of the visual community. This legislation, known as Orphan Works legislation brought to light the importance of the various related, but somewhat diverse groups, representing visual artists in the realization they would only have an impact and be taken seriously by Congress if they spoke with a common purpose and voice regarding important legislative policy and congressional action. Since this time, the coalition has met, and had frequent phone calls to collaborate in response to requests for input on registration and other issues affecting visual artists from the Copyright Office, supporting the need for a Copyright Small Claims Court and responding to Congress on copyright modernization, especially as it relates to the workings of the Copyright Office and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Although the Copyright Alliance, which DMLA is a member, also represents a broad spectrum of creators, this Coalition is the only working group dedicated to visual media, raising issues that may not be the same for music, motion pictures, software and publishing. Within the coalition, DMLA has a unique voice as the only member whose primary focus is the business of licensing content into third party works. 


This year’s agenda dealt with current and pressing issues raised by Congress, the Copyright Office and the courts.  In the morning, the group focused on roundtables led by Senator Tillis (R-N.C.) of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Copyright Modernization. These roundtables are by invitation only and limited to a selection of stakeholders. Coalition members who attended the roundtables (Rebecca Blake of GAG and Sean Fitzgerald of NANPA) summarized the Judiciary Committee’s priorities in examining the relationship between the Copyright Office and the Library of Congress. The Copyright Office is located within the Library of Congress raising the issue of technology autonomy and decision making in general.  Other issues involve registration practices that can accommodate the needs of various types of creators and looking at the definition of publication in a digital world.

The roundtables were followed by an update on the CASE ACT and meetings scheduled for the week with legislators on Capitol Hill. 

What has also become a recent tradition is to lunch with the Copyright Alliance where both the Executive Director,  Keith Kupferschmid and VP of Legal Policy and Corporate Counsel Terrica Carrington,  join the group discussion. Keith congratulated the Coalition for all the success this past year in working with the Hill and the Copyright Office to move along the CASE Act, contribute to copyright  modernization discussions, work to limit registration fees for group registration of photographs and encouraging the Copyright Office to look at publication issues for registration purposes. 

In the afternoon, the focus of the meeting with the Copyright Alliance was on the CASE Act and how to use the Coalition member community to convince the one Senator holding up the bill, Senator Wyden (D-O), to lift his hold so the bill can pass in December or early January. 

Also on the afternoon agenda, was a discussion of state labor laws, in particular AB5 in California and bills proposed in NJ and NY that classify independent contractors as employees.  AB5 currently has a limit of 35 assignments for photographers in CA, which members feel could cause publishers to blacklist CA photographers.

Another important part of the annual agenda is a visit from Copyright Office leadership.  Karen Temple, the Register, was scheduled to attend, but announced a day earlier she was leaving the CO to work for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) effective January 3, 2020. Instead Kevin Amer, Deputy General Counsel and Kim Isbell, Deputy Dir. of Policy and International Affairs attended and listened to coalition members’ concerns.  

The balance of the afternoon was devoted to the appointment of the next Register of Copyright, the upcoming modernization efforts of the Senate Judiciary and its recently proposed legislation to address autonomy for the copyright office and registration updates, CASE Act strategy and an amicus brief on Oracle v Google, which is the first fair use case under the Copyright Act that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear in 25 years. All agreed to the importance of an amicus brief so the court understands the implication of fair use for those outside of the software industry.

The meeting adjourned.

UPDATE – Since the meeting, Dr. Carla Hayden of the Library of Congress has appointed Maria Strong Deputy Director of Policy and International Affairs at the Copyright office as Acting Register of Copyright effective January 5, 2020, and a search for a new register has commenced.