Image theft is so pervasive that more than two-thirds of photographers surveyed by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) say their images have been used without permission.
In theory, U.S. copyright law should act as a deterrent to this theft, or serve as a means of recouping damages when a theft does occur. But in practice, high volume, low value creators like photographers often find it difficult to prosecute copyright violations because the relatively low dollar values don't entice copyright attorneys to take up the case.
PPA has spent a decade attempting to rectify this by lobbying for a Copyright Small Claims Court that would help photographers and other visual creatives pursue smaller value (but vitally important) infringement cases. You can read their full recommendation here. As we've reported on PDN, the Obama administration is positively disposed toward such a system, but it will need Congressional support to come into force.
If you want to get involved, head over here. PPA will contact you as when Congress takes up the issue (which they're finally poised to do), at which point you'll need to contact your representative and urge them to throw their support behind the initiative.