Current Copyright Office Initiatives on Digital Issues
Introduction: Shira Perlmutter, Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs, USPTO
Copyright Office is covering many of the key issues addressed/not addressed in the Green Paper with studies etc. Support/provide input into those issues.
Speaker: Maria Pallante, Register of Copyrights and Director of the United States Copyright Office
No focused attention from the executive since the WIPO treaties of the mid-90s. Important to have neutral, inclusive and informed policy. Bob Goodlatte: new copyright challenges—internet enables making available both authorized and not. Questions of copyright ownership of historical works. Statutory damages are a concern; old laws are difficult to apply today. Copyright Office struggles to meet needs of its customers, the public.
Congress isn’t committed to a legislative package yet—we’re in no way close to that. But Congress has a clear role in copyright policy. More and more people are affected by copyright law; need to consider constitutional purposes. Copyright owners’ control can’t be absolute, and so we have things to reconcile. The public performance right is of paramount importance in the digital space. There are no criminal remedies for infringement as there are for reproduction/distribution and that’s a gap; there should be a way to craft remedies. But there also needs to be room for private performance. Need orphan works policies both for isolated cases and for mass digitization. Further roundtables will convene in the spring, and release drafts of legislative proposals. Need to address state of compulsory licenses, repeal some, consider new forms of collective/blanket licensing, review existing consent decrees. Will be studying music licensing.
Highlights from hearings: in May, case study for consensus building with members of Copyright Principles Project. Innovation in America; the Role of Technology; the Role of Voluntary Agreements. The Rise of Innovative Business Models. Theme: innovation. All the following comes from the various witnesses: Basic structure of the Act is sound; we need balanced changes to existing provisions. Recordation of transfers is a priority, maybe tied to remedies. Encouraging registration for better information. Remain tech-neutral. Copyright should foster certainty for businesses. These themes were also brought out in questions, not just written testimony. More opinions from witnesses: Copyright owners lock down with restrictions; just trying to comply with current statute is expensive/cost-prohibitive. Fair use for employees at institutions is too indefinite even if the statute in theory helps them. Fair use was never intended to be relied on so much and is overused—but digital technology has changed how students learn/interact. Lack of clarity around reasonable/ordinary personal use has contributed to disrespect for/misunderstanding of law. Keep in mind noneconomic goals of copyright—won’t disseminate unless copyright owner feels safe. Fair use is important, but DRM gets in the way. Voluntary initiatives illustrate the importance of multistakeholder, market-driven solutions in addressing piracy.
So, what’s next? Scope of rights, fair use, and DMCA will all be considered next year. One or more hearings on Copyright Office itself.