US Copyright Office Releases Priorities For Next Two YearsPublished on 25 October 2011 @ 11:59 pm
By William New, Intellectual Property Watch
The US Copyright Office today issued its priorities and projects for the next two years, targeting studies, legislation, trade and foreign relations, and administrative law.
The 18-page report released by new US Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante highlights 17 priorities and 10 special projects.
The report is available here [pdf].
The priorities begin with studies – in small claims solutions for copyright owners (initial comments 16 January 2012); legal treatment of pre-1972 sound recordings (due out December 2011); and mass book digitisation such as the Google books project (due October 2011).
Legislative priorities include legal tools to address “rogue websites” (the office recommends legislation to follow the money taking into consideration “the role of all players in the website ecosystem”). It also includes a potential bill boosting legal tools against illegal streaming of public performances, and long-standing legislation for a public performance right in sound recordings.
Another bill on which the office is focussed regards “orphan works”, those for which the copyright owner cannot be found. With the court’s rejection of the Google book project that had delayed congressional action on a bill, the Copyright Office plans to continue providing analysis to Congress on this issue.
Other legislative work includes copyright exceptions for libraries, whose needs the office recognised in a 2008 report are not fully addressed under existing law. Again citing the Google Book Search litigation being out of the way, the office said it will formulate a discussion document and preliminary recommendations on these issues in 2012.
Finally, the Copyright Office will work on market-based licensing for cable and satellite retransmission, and will build on its report published on 29 August 2011.
On the international front, the Copyright Office listed the range of activities at the World Intellectual Property Organization in which it participates. This includes participation in WIPO conferences and symposia around the world, and engagement with other US government agencies on issues before the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), such as a treaty on protection for audiovisual performers, possible “instruments” for blind, visually impaired and print-disabled persons, and possible “instruments” related to the protection of broadcast signals. In addition to the reference to the treaty for blind readers, the office also mentioned US participation in a voluntary project called Trusted Intermediary Global Accessible Resources Project (TIGAR), which has been criticised by respresentatives of the blind. Furthermore, the office has involvement in WIPO committee work on possible “recognition of and protection for” (as the Copyright Office put it) traditional cultural expressions, and related projects of the WIPO Committee on Development and Intellectual Property.
The office also mentioned continued work on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and other international trade agreements and priorities, including the recently approved bilateral agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama, and the annual US Trade Representative’s office Special 301 process of singling out countries it deems to not adequately protect US intellectual property rights. In general, it expects to continue offering advice and reviews on new copyright laws and amendments, as well as multilateral activities, such as World Trade Organization accessions and trade policy reviews.
On priorities for administrative law practice, the office listed work on:
- prohibition on circumvention of measures controlling access to copyrighted works, where it is considering exemptions for certain non-infringing uses. Comments on the current rulemaking process are due on 1 December. Reply comments will be due in February followed by hearings in the spring.
- electronic system for the designation of agents under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Initial comments on the current rulemaking are due by 28 November, with replies by 27 December.
- review of group registration options, looking at automated databases and electronic serials. Various proposals are expected to be announced by the office in the first half of 2012.
- registration options for websites and other forms of digital authorship, reflecting challenges of rapid changes online. The office plans consultations and public comments in 2012.
- electronic administration of the statutory licenses. A pilot program to accept electronic filings from cable operators will begin in 2012, and another pilot to test a new system to accept electronically filed notices of intention to obtain a compulsory licence for making and distributing phonorecords is expected before the end of 2011. Proposals are further expected in 2012 on an update to regulations for “use of the statutory licences that allow for retransmission of distant and local broadcast television signals to account for differences associated with the use of digital technology in providing these signals, as well as its regulations governing statements of account for the section 115 compulsory licence.”
- recording notices of termination of copyright transfers.
Special Projects are listed as: study of fees and services, a revision of the compendium of Copyright Office practices; technical upgrades to electronic registration; dialogues and roundtables with the copyright community; research partnerships with the academic community; a revision of the Copyright Office website; public outreach and copyright education; business process re-engineering of the Recordation Division; public access to historical records; and skills training for Copyright Office staff.
The US Copyright Office, housed in the Library of Congress, was founded in 1870 and now has 450 employees. In fiscal year 2011 (which ended on 30 September), it processed 700,000 registration claims. It has an annual overall operating budget of about $45 million, and 65 percent of its budget comes from fees for services.
Despite suggestions that it must move into 21st century thinking, the release of priorities comes in the middle of Open Access Week, but does not appear to mention “open” or “access” anywhere in its 18 pages.
The plan was praised by digital rights group Public Knowledge, whose President and Co-Founder Gigi B. Sohn called it “admirable and ambitious.”
“The plan includes items from much-needed technical upgrades for the Office to studies of emerging issues such as mass book digitization to important continuing legislative work on issues ranging from orphan works to public performances,” Sohn said in a statement. “We appreciate [Pallante’s] commitment to work with a diverse group of stakeholders to fashion a balanced and reasonable copyright policy that recognize the importance of limitations and exceptions to copyright law as well as enforcement.”
The US Chamber of Commerce Global IP Center (GIPC) also applauded Pallante’s “forward-thinking vision” in the report. The Chamber cited the priorities of illegal streaming, and negotiation and implementation of copyright provisions in trade agreements, and was “extremely pleased” to see rogue websites as the top legislative priority.
“Rogue sites severely undermine the integrity of the copyright and e-commercial systems and necessitate the urgent attention of Congress to enact legislation that cuts off these online menaces from the U.S. marketplace,” the GIPC’s Chief IP Counsel Steve Tepp said in a statement. “We are encouraged by the Administration’s and Congress’ renewed focus on equipping enforcement agencies with sufficient tools to implement existing intellectual property laws.”
“As the custodian of America’s copyright registration system, the Copyright Office’s new strategic plan offers a clear and transparent approach to 21st Century issues,” Tepp said.
[Update:] The Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), a global rights licensing broker, also issued a statement welcoming the announcement. “Advances in technology are accelerating options for creating, distributing, consuming, sharing and preserving content while globally, laws have not kept pace with technology advances,” CCC said. “For more than 20 years, the important principle of copyright which protects the work of authors and creators has faced increasing turmoil.” The group cited litigation such as music file sharing cases and the Google Book Search case, plus new developments such as e-books and user-generated content.
“There is an urgent need for legislative solutions to address our most challenging copyright issues,” the CCC said. “Issues ranging from clarifying the use of Orphan Works (works where the copyright holder cannot be located) to streamlining registration for groups of copyrighted works to addressing mass digitization of books.”
“Register Pallante’s priorities indicate that the government is interested in ensuring that the US retains its leadership position with contemporary policies reflecting the evolving use of content while encouraging creators and publishers to develop new content and new licensing and delivery mechanisms to serve their readers and customers,” said Tracey Armstrong, CCC’s president and CEO. The group will try to assist the Copyright Office in its evaluation of licensing opportunities in the US, ranging from “repertory and pay-per-use models to concepts new to the US such as extended collective licensing.”
William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.