Thursday 25 April 2013

US Copyright to be reviewed in the next few months

Bob Goodlatte
As 1709 Blog readers will remember, during a lecture held at Columbia University last month US Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante called for copyright reform and the adoption of “The Next Great Copyright Act” (here, here, here ...).

As explained by Pallante, among other things, areas to be revised include:

·       Licensing;
·       Digital first sale (this is something which does not exist under current US copyright law: see here);
·       Exceptions and limitations, including enhancing clarity in personal use activities);
·       Enforcement, including DMCA safe harbor provisions, and
·       Orphan works.

Yesterday House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte announced that the Judiciary Committee will conduct a comprehensive review of US copyright law over the coming months.  

During a speech delivered during the World IP Day [for those who have not yet added the relevant entry to their diaries, tomorrow is World IP Day but - sadly enough - this is not marked as bank holiday] celebration at the Library of Congress, Goodlatte made the following remarks:

Technology continues to rapidly advance. [...]

Our Founding Fathers could never have imagined a day in which citizens would be able to immediately access the knowledge and news of the world on their smartphones as they walk down the street.

When I was first elected to Congress in 1993, only 2.5 percent of Americans had Internet access and less than ¼ of one percent of the world population did.  Then, we spoke about the very few who had Internet access. Today, we speak about the few who do not. Technological development has increased at an exponential rate. [...]

There is little doubt that our copyright system faces new challenges today. The Internet has enabled copyright owners to make available their works to consumers around the world, but has also enabled others to do so without any compensation for copyright owners.  Efforts to digitize our history so that all have access to it face questions about copyright ownership by those who are hard, if not impossible, to locate [by the way, have you seen the Digital Public Library of America project?]. There are concerns about statutory license and damage mechanisms. 

Federal judges are forced to make decisions using laws that are difficult to apply today [speaking of (lack of) digital first sale, in its ReDigi decision the US District Court for the Southern District of New York itself pointed out that "the first sale doctrine was enacted in a world where the ease and speed of data transfer could not have been imagined ... It is left to Congress, and not this Court, to deem them outmoded."]

Even the Copyright Office itself faces challenges in meeting the growing needs of its customers – the American public.

So it is my belief that a wide review of our nation’s copyright laws and related enforcement mechanisms is timely. I am announcing today that the House Judiciary Committee will hold a comprehensive series of hearings on U.S. copyright law in the months ahead. The goal of these hearings will be to determine whether the laws are still working in the digital age. [...]

There is much work to be done [1709 Blog team members look forward to seeing the outcome of these efforts].”

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