Artists, Copyright Office Wants to Know: What Is the Market Value of Your Work?

copyrightAs strange as it sounds the past few years have been an interesting time at the United States Copyright Office. Following a 2013 report in favor of a federal Artists Resale Right, Rep. Jerrold Nadler has in 2014 and 2015 introduced the American Royalties Too Act for consideration by congress, and there is proposed legislation that would enable musicians and composers to receive broader royalties as well. This is just the start of the Copyright Office’s activities inching towards a thorough and much needed overhaul (or at an least update) of the copyright code.

Some of the most common criticisms I hear from artists about the copyright system is that it is not designed to serve the needs of individual artists, but rather serves to protect more powerful publishers and big-moneyed corporate interests. The reality is that we need a copyright law that is capable of protecting all of these actors – the “big” guys, “little” guys, and whoever is in between. Lucky for us we do live under a political system that allows for some public voice in legislative matters, and artists have a chance (many chances actually) to influence congressional decisions that impact their economic interests.

We are currently nearing the end of the open comments period concerning the copyright registration, enforcement, and monetization process for visual art, specifically photography and graphic arts. According to the department’s site, “the Office is specifically interested in the current marketplace for these visual works, as well as observations regarding the real or potential obstacles that these authors and, as applicable, their licensees or other representatives face when navigating the digital landscape.”

Whether you have previously registered your work or not, this could be an important opportunity to weigh in on this issue, and to protect and assert your interests. Are the registration fees to high? Is the duration of copyright too long or too short? Do you want a more restrictive, more open, or a tiered system? Whatever your position is, take the time to let the Copyright Office know. Copyright is at its heart about an author’s economic interest in their work. Copyright is a labor right – claim it.

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