ArtsWatch: The 20-Page Copyright Challenge

Subcommittee hearing on copyright law revision dives in, seeking brevity
May 20, 2013 -- 6:27 am PDT
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

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Will The Next Generation Copyright Act Be Brief And Readable?
On May 16 the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet rose to the challenge posed by the Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante in March by holding the first in a series of hearings that will provide a comprehensive review of copyright law. Titled "A Case Study For Consensus Building: The Copyright Principles Project," the panel included five participants from the 2010 CPP report. Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) described the participants as "an example of how people with divergent views on copyright law can productively debate a range of copyright issues." With many hearings ahead, this focus on consensus building is vital to achieving legislative results and both the panel and lawmakers shared a sense that this hearing was momentous. While the issues to be considered will be vast, Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) zoomed in on an idea raised by Pamela Samuelson, director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology and the convenor of the 2010 CPP report. Samuelson suggested that a revised copyright law for the digital age could be phrased based on general principles, be both readable and flexible and limited to about 20 pages. Watt closed the subcommittee's questioning by confronting the panelists with "the 20-page challenge." Samuelson said she would try, but she did not respond to Watt's follow-up regarding how soon her draft could be completed. A readable copyright act could help promote wider respect for intellectual property and place U.S. global IP leadership on a modernized foundation, but the flip side, as Watt emphasized, is that simple, flexible principles would require delegation of new enforcement powers for the Copyright Office, among others.

District Judge Denies YouTube Infringement Plaintiffs' Class Action
U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton, who ruled against Viacom's lawsuit against YouTube in April, ruled on May 15 against granting class action status to smaller independent plaintiffs in a related case also initiated in 2007. This was the action that originally included the National Music Publishers' Association, however, NMPA settled with YouTube in 2011. As in his April decision against Viacom, Stanton applied an infringement standard requiring identification of the specific infringing digital file and found that the plaintiffs would not be able to meet that standard as a class. "Plaintiffs offer no explanation of how … they will establish that defendants became aware of the specific video clips which allegedly infringed each of the potentially tens of thousands of musical compositions incorporated into specific videos," said Stanton.

Changes Proposed To France's Three-Strikes Antipiracy Program
A May 13 report commissioned by France's Ministry of Culture provoked a wide range of reactions regarding the future administration of the three-strikes approach detailed in France's Internet piracy law, HADOPI, to combat online piracy. Produced by a commission headed by former entertainment industry executive Pierre Lescure, the report addressed France's cultural exception policies more generally, including recommendations for a variety of new taxes on electronic devices used for consuming media. Last year, amid fears HADOPI would be eliminated, its budget was trimmed by the new government. Lescure's report criticizes HADOPI as inefficient and suggests it should be dismantled, provoking the response that France will "strike three-strikes." On the other hand, French consumer advocates La Quadrature du Net warned that Lescure's proposals would merely shift the responsibility for France's graduated response program to other agencies.

Digital Music Catalog To Land In London, Operate In Berlin
The Global Repertoire Database announced on May 13 that its headquarters will be based in London with an operations center in Berlin. A multi-industry effort to establish an authoritative online list of audio recordings, including rights information, GRD has spent years developing its technical standards and will proceed to construct its actual database this year. CISAC Chair Kenth Muldin said, "A single, authoritative global view of music ownership in real time will mean that anyone wanting to set up a music service can do so more quickly — and that means more legal choice for music fans and consumers, and a more efficient way of identifying who should be paid royalties for the use of their music."

The Recording Academy actively represents the music community on such issues as intellectual property rights, music piracy, archiving and preservation, and censorship concerns. In pursuing its commitment to addressing these and other issues, The Recording Academy undertakes a variety of national initiatives. ArtsWatch is a key part of an agenda aimed at raising public awareness of and support for the rights of artists. To become more involved, visit Advocacy Action @ GRAMMY.com and sign up for Advocacy Action E-lerts.

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