The current bill is driven by Hollywood and the music industry, with photographers' groups riding on their coattails. This time, in an attempt to really slap the pirates, the statutory stakes are off the scale. Here is the reality of today's photofinishing counter. A customer comes in to a kiosk with 100 home-scanned images of her wedding proofs. The lab can see no copyright markings or the photographer's logo. The way the proposed bill is written-without protective language for innocent infringement-means that a judge would be bound to compile the damages at 100 times [the value of the image]. This could be anywhere from $30,000 to more than a hundred thousand dollars per image! A possible award in the millions, plus attorneys' fees, would put a whole new set of pages in the Yellow Pages.
However, I feel that the intent of most of the folks that would bring a lawsuit comes from a direct quote from that 600-page book. A photographer testifies: "The availability of statutory damages and attorney fees will force more settlements, and will do so more quickly..." So, one of your kids at the counter screws up, and next you get a call looking to let you off the hook more gently. Knowing that you will likely face a hundred-thousand-dollar legal bill just to get to the federal judge to tell your story for the first time, what's your extraction level? Fifty thousand? A hundred? Fortunately for photofinishers, reason has begun to creep in. A group of more than 20 distinguished law professors from all over the country have written Congressman John Conyers (the principal behind this Hollywood-driven bill) and told him that Section 104 would not reach the pirates in the dark alleys of China, but would instead chill legitimate business.
It is my message to consumers of pictures and producers of pictures, be it at the corner lab or on the internet: you should make your voice heard about the impact of this proposed bill. One camera store owner told me that if this bill went through without the inclusion of protective language for innocent infringement that he would shut his lab the next day: he couldn't risk the impact to the rest of his business and the possibility of his children losing the family business.
It is time for reason and working together toward achieving balance and parity. The Coalition for Consumers Picture Rights supports punishing those who knowingly and repeatedly violate photographers' rights. But we do not support open season on legitimate businesses trying to do our job of fulfilling the legitimate picture needs of our customers.
Jack N. King, chairman, Coalition for Consumers' Picture Rights is also the owner of Camera World of NC, Inc., a full service specialty photo store with minilab and online photofinishing. King has been in the photo business since 1962; and holds several patents for photographic products. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 704-375-8453.
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