US Congress to look for areas of consensus on copyright law

US Congress to look for areas of consensus on copyright law

Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the US House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, said that the country’s copyright review process, started three years ago, will move into a more decisive phase "in the weeks ahead."

Goodlatte was speaking via a video recording at an event organised April 26 by the US Copyright Office and the Copyright Alliance on the occasion of the 16th World IP Day. He said that the Committee will, "in the weeks ahead, identify areas where there is a likelihood of potential consensus and circulate outlines of potential reforms in those areas.” He added that once this process is done, the Committee will “convene stakeholders for further work on these potential reforms.”

"And you have my personal commitment that as the review shifts to more focused work on potential reforms, the process will be transparent and the Committee will continue to ensure that all interested parties have the opportunity to weigh in on issues of concern to them,” said Goodlatte. "Our copyright system deserves no less. While no one can guarantee that every interested party will share the same views on every copyright policy issue, I can guarantee that we will have an open ear to everyone who wants to contribute to this process. All views are welcome.”

Goodlatte said that the review of the country’s copyright law, which included 20 formal hearings with over 100 formal witnesses, as well as public roundtables in Nashville, Santa Clara and Los Angeles, helped "develop a comprehensive record of the issues facing the American copyright system today.” What the review also highlighted, according to Goodlatte, was a "the interconnected nature of US copyright law and that it was “critical" for Congress to understand "the overall impact of any changes in copyright law before proceeding with formally introduced legislation.”

He added, "It is also clear that neither a solely copyright owner focused bill, nor a copyright user focused bill, could be enacted by Congress today, nor should they be.” He concluded: "When our nation’s Founders included intellectual property in our Constitution, they recognized the importance of creativity to our nation and our economy. We need to ensure that our laws continue to promote creativity and innovation in the digital age."

In her opening remarks, the US Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante thanked Chairman Goodlatte for running the copyright review “in a transparent and comprehensive” manner. She reminded the audience gathered at the Copyright Office that “Congress and Congress alone has the role to revise the law,” and that the review was crucial to this process.

While she did not express any specific preference for the pieces of legislation that she would favour, Pallante said, "“All voices are important but progress will most certainly require collaboration and consensus.” Speaking after a panel of creators expressed their views on creation in the digital age, she added that "It would be illogical to have a Copyright Act that would not protect creators.”

Meanwhile, co-host Keith Kupferschmid, CEO of the Copyright Alliance, a Washington, DC-based organisation that represents over 15,000 Individual creators and trade bodies from all copyright disciplines, offered three cases that, if addressed, would help creators.

The first was the modernisation of the US Copyright Office, which he claimed was suffering from "years of budgetary neglect and structural deficits” and that its problems "can be traced back to the fact that the Copyright Office is within and under the 'direction and supervision' of the Library of Congress.”

"The Copyright Office must be able to rapidly adapt to ensure that it can offer the tools and resources that all users and staff of the Office demand,” said Kupferschmid. [These remarks were welcomed by an amused Pallante who quipped, "thank you Keith for not saying anything controversial.”]

Kupferschmid’s second issue was the need for a small claims process that would "allow creators to bring small infringement claims before a Copyright Office small claims tribunal instead of having to go to federal court.” And in third was the Allvid proposal by the Federal Communications Commission, which would require cable and satellite TV distributors to allow third parties to provide subscribers with their own set top box through which to access the TV programming licensed by the TV distributor. “We are gravely concerned that the FCC’s proposal will permanently and significantly harm creative professionals,” said Kupferschmid.

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