Spotlight on Creative Many Michigan

Joe Voss

This week we would like you to meet Joe Voss, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Creative Many Michigan.

1. Explain what your organization does and tell us about your role.

Lawyers for the Creative Economy is a pro bono/low-cost legal referral services operated by Creative Many Michigan, a statewide nonprofit organization that develops creative people, creative places, and the creative economy for a more resilient Michigan. I am Creative Many’s Director of Strategic Partnerships and I focus on the operations of the Lawyers for the Creative Economy and fiscal sponsorship programs, as well as build relationships with local, state, and national partners.

2. What is your (and your organization’s) interest in copyright law? How does your organization and/or its constituents rely on copyright law to support their livelihoods?

The Lawyers for the Creative Economy program works to provide information and guidance to creative practitioners in Michigan. Copyright law is a key element of our educational and direct support programming, and our stakeholders are broadly impacted by copyright law as it is central to protecting and monetizing their creative practices. Whether it’s a filmmaker that needs to understand and comply with copyright law to use third-party content in a film, or a musician that co-owns copyright-protected material with artistic collaborators, people rely on Creative Many and Lawyers for the Creative Economy to maintain and distribute accurate information they can rely on.

3. If there was one thing that you wished the public understood about copyright, what would it be?

One of the issues that we regularly work through with clients and audiences is the difference between registered and unregistered copyrights, so I wish the public understood that there are some copyright protections available absent registration, which attach to creative work the moment i’s in a tangible form. We are strong advocates for copyright registration because of the ease of enforcement that it affords, but i’s good to understand that creators of content are not completely vulnerable prior to registering their work.

4. What is your organization’s biggest copyright-related challenge?

Lawyers for the Creative Economy works hard to reduce the barriers to access to quality legal support for creative practitioners. So, our biggest challenge is the cultivation of our network of attorneys that are willing to handle copyright issues in partnership with artists on a pro bono or low-cost basis.

5. If there was one aspect of copyright law that you could change, what would that be and how would you change it?

I would change some of the inherent barriers to understanding that are often baked into agreements related to copyright licenses and the commissioning of creative work. We support the use of plain language contract provisions whenever we can, and will continue to translate between creative practitioners and the drafters of agreements that govern copyright-protected materials. There is no need to keep the legal tools necessary for the proper protection and sharing of creative outputs exclusively in the hands of attorneys through the use of impenetrable contract provisions. Instead, i’s important to do the intentional work required to expand access wherever possible.

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