Pallante, Goodlatte Lay Framework For US Copyright Review

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Washington, DC – United States Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante, US House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), and US House Representative Anna Eshoo (D-California) this week outlined the priorities and challenges of an anticipated comprehensive review of US copyright law at the World Creators Summit (WSC).

The two-day summit, held on 4-5 June in Washington, DC, was hosted by the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC).

Pallante laid the framework for a discussion of the US copyright agenda by identifying three broad themes that she viewed as essential for approaching the review: (1) access to creative is essential to our culture, commerce, and progress as a people; (2) rule of law must provide creators with incentives, protections, and remedies that are correspondingly meaningful; and (3) creators have certain responsibilities to participate in the larger copyright system.

“At the center of the equation of a new copyright regime is the wellbeing of authors and the health of the creative industries that support them,” Pallante said. “Authors matter.”

She also specifically identified eight “pressing” priorities for copyright law reform:

1. To clarify the scope of exclusive rights, particularly in the digital arena

2. To provide a full public performance right for sound recordings

3. More exceptions and limitations from the analog context to digital

4. Address the problem of orphan works

5. The efficacy of the DMCA notice and takedown process

6. Provide guidance to the courts on statutory damages

7. Encourage new licensing regimes

8. Ensure that there are 21st century enforcement provisions to deal with 21st century infringers.

[The DMCA is the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act]

“Comprehensive review, rather than piece meal legislation, is more appealing,” to the US Copyright Office, Pallante said.

Pallante ended her speech with a polite jab in reference to the discussion surrounding the proposed copyright review: “It’s critical for the parties involved to maintain a respectful dialogue,” she said, and promised that she would do her part “to set that tone.”

Creators vs. Rights Holders

That advice set the stage for the two panels that followed, highlighting reactions from creators, advocacy groups, and rights holders.

Rights holders, advocacy groups, and unions were generally weary of Pallante’s “wholistic” approach to copyright review, with Public Knowledge President and CEO Gigi Sohn saying, “We have to be realistic about comprehensive copyright review. It would be better to look at particular issues where we can all come to agreement.” She specifically pointed to issues like orphan works where there appears to be an overall consensus (Sohn was later hissed by the audience after saying that Public Knowledge “does not like gatekeepers of any kind.”).

Lee Knife, interim executive director and general counsel for the Digital Media Association, agreed that a “top down reform is necessary,” but that it would be difficult to achieve in the short term.

Mitch Glazier, senior executive vice president of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), suggested that US Congress step back from a comprehensive review and hold a simple hearing to determine what it is trying to protect.

“The most important place for Congress to start at any review is at the beginning – the actual constitution,” Glazier said. “Review has to address behavior and respect to author, not just technology.”

Chiming in from Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), Chief Administrative Officer & General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland shared that he was “inherently optimistic” about a US copyright overhaul, and “excited about it.”

On the creators’ side, representatives from the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA), Writers Guild of America (WGA), Directors Guild of America (DGA), and the Authors Guild voiced major concerns about the lack of enforcement, transparency and representation moving forward.

“When we have no representation at the table when policy decisions are being made that affect our rights, so often we end up with a law that is well intended but misses its target,” SGA President Rick Carnes said. “Creators are not going to survive under the current regime.”

Scott Turow, bestselling writer and the president of the Author’s Guild, along with other panellists, pointed to large search engines, like Google, as a large part of the problem, which he believes is still not doing its part in handling takedown notices (IPW, US Policy, 21 February 2013).

“It’s pointless to have rights if anyone can go to a search engine and pirate your work,” Turow said.

Marjorie David, producer and screenwriter of the Writers Guild of America, highlighted an interest in tackling larger distribution networks, rather than individuals, to solve the piracy problem.

“Content needs to be provided at reasonable price,” David said. “There must be a reasonable way to pay for content so there will be no reason for piracy.”

Future of Copyright, Technical Innovation

The day culminated in a conversation about protecting copyright and supporting technological innovation with US House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), and US House Representative Anna Eshoo (D-California), moderated by CBS News Senior Correspondent Bob Schieffer.

When asked what copyright issues need the most attention, Goodlatte, who will lead the congressional discussion on copyright review, mentioned a few issues including: illegal downloading of music and harmonising royalties paid to musicians; redefining fair use; and the first sale doctrine applied in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons (IPW, US Policy, 19 March 2013).

“The law is old and doesn’t speak to where we are now,” Eshoo added. “While some people think marriage is outdated, [marriage] between technology and content is an absolute necessity.”

Both Eshoo and Goodlatte believe that the first thing to accomplish in preparing for the review is to get “all the disparate interests in a dialogue about greatest way to promote creativity and innovation.”

The review will keep in mind what Eshoo called a “lesson learned” from the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), in which a grassroots effort by online groups urged Congress to step back from any anti-piracy legislation movement (IPW, US Policy, 18 January 2012).

There was no word on how long a review of this nature would take but Eshoo defended the process, saying “it takes time to build sound legislation” but was confident that “[Goodlatte] will do it the right way.”

Kelly Burke may be reached at

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  1. theresa phan says

    I foolishly thought that the “progress of the sciences and the arts” was the central concern of our copyright system, not the well-being of authors. Pallante really needs to go.


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