Friday 25 April 2014

Fordham Report 2014: Copyright revision around the world

Common expression of the average
copyright aficionado
at Fordham this morning
Some copyright, at last! Following a copyright-free morning in which copyright enthusiasts felt a bit lost - not to say like a fish out of water -, the second and final afternoon at the 22nd Fordham IP Conference [again: do not forget that 6th May is the day of my Post-Fordham Copyright Catch-Up event] started with a yummy session moderated by Michael S Shapiro (United States Patent and Trademark Office - USPTO) devoted to discussing copyright reform projects around the globe.

The first speaker was Jacqueline C Charlesworth (US Copyright Office), who explained the US Copyright Office's take on music licensing, aka as "the most complex and fragmented of all areas of copyright law". The main question she addressed is how to reconcile the statutory framework - which she considered outdated, inefficient and overly complex, far from being a one-stop shop system - with emerging business models, technology growth, consumer behavior, and the exclusive rights of authors in the context of current US copyright review debate, which Bob Goodlatte announced a year ago. In particular she focused on the public performance right [which US law does recognise but to a limited extent], statutory licenses, blanket licenses, micro-licensing, consent decrees, rate-setting, data standards, and the investment in, and development of, new products and delivery platforms. 

Following Charlesworth, it was the turn of Shira Perlmutter (USPTO). She discussed the recent 99-page USPTO Green Paper on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy. The key conclusions of this study are that: (1) copyright is key to US economy; (2) there is no need for a complete re-write of the 1976 Copyright Act; and (3) a good copyright system and a vibrant internet are not at odds with each other. She then focused on specific issues, including remixes [which she called a sub-set of user-generated content] and mashups, first sale doctrine in the digital environment [remember ReDigi?], and statutory damages in personal file-sharing.
A pair of glasses that can only belong
to Australian Copyright Council's Fiona Phillips

Then David Carson (IFPI) provided an overview of copyright reform projects outside the US, notably Europe - at both the EU [here] and Member States' (UK, Ireland [hereherehere] and France) levels -, Australia [here] and Hong Kong [the latter is currently considering introducing an exception for parody, satire, caricature and pastiche], and outlined the common themes - in particular whether US-style fair use [but which fair use doctrine? He submitted that current interpretation of fair use, eg Cariou v Prince, is different from what fair use used to be, say, 20 years ago] should be imported into these laws - as well as different approaches that have arisen in the course of these processes. 

Finally, it was the turn of designated audience members Mihály Ficsor (Hungarian Copyright Council), Howard P Knopf (Macera & Jarzyna LLP, Ottawa), invariably fashionably dressed Fiona Phillips (Australian Copyright Council, Sydney) and Steven Tepp (Sentinel Worldwide, Washington DC) to make their comments before the general discussion.  

From the audience, Mr Justice Richard Arnold asked whether US copyright reform is going to take into account criticisms of non-compliance with international instruments and lack of moral right protection. The response of Perlmutter was: "everything is [awesome and] on the table". Another comment came from a Disney employee who said that, if you wish to see what bad evidence for copyright reform means, just consider the case of the UK ...

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