The strength of our existing intellectual property system is the ability of any creator to protect their work through filings with the government. Not every artist or inventor has the resources of a large corporation to protect their work, so the accessibility and affordability of protection helps to level the playing field and allows independent creators to profit from their work without having to expend limited resources. But some proposed changes to the U.S. Copyright Office might make things more challenging for creators, and freelance photographers in particular.
The U.S. Copyright Office is proposing rate hikes to certain copyright services that could have some spending more to protect their work. Under the proposed changes, the fee for protecting a book or song would rise to $75 from $55, and the cost of registering photographs en masse up to 750 photos would increase from $55 to $100. The fee increases are part of an effort by the Copyright Office to fund improvements to its information technology systems, but critics note the negative effects the increase will have on creators, especially freelance photographers.
The freelance photographer in particular bears the weight of modernity's negative effects; their pay rates are decreasing while fees and costs increase, and the rise of the internet makes it increasingly hard to try and protect their photos from infringement. And while 750 photos seems like a lot, photographers can quickly eclipse that number on certain assignment, making the increase to registration fees that much more painful.
While the Copyright Office is accepting input on the proposed rate increases, the impact the increases might have on creators has to be considered. Beyond just the photographers who will most acutely feel the pinch, increased fees could serve to discourage filings by creators with numerous works who can't afford the extra cost. And while technological improvements to the Copyright Office might be positive and necessary, the agency's function should be to serve the needs of its constituency, which in this case is the creative class that it is potentially discouraging from using the very services it provides.