ArtsWatch: Comprehensive Copyright Review In The Works

Rep. Bob Goodlatte schedules hearings on how U.S. copyright law is working
April 29, 2013 -- 6:43 am PDT
By Philip Merrill /

In recent news ...

Copyright Law: The Next Evolution
One could say the Copyright Office began celebrating World Intellectual Property Day, observed on April 26, a few days early with a gathering at the Library of Congress on April 24. Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) spoke to the crowd about previous updates to U.S. copyright law. "It is my belief that a wide review of our nation's copyright laws and related enforcement mechanisms is timely," said Goodlatte. "I am announcing today that the House Judiciary Committee will hold a comprehensive series of hearings on U.S. copyright law in the months ahead. The goal of these hearings will be to determine whether the laws are still working in the digital age. I welcome all interested parties to submit their views and concerns to the committee." This historic announcement was in response to Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante's call for a copyright law rewrite during her Congressional testimony in March. Goodlatte's news was welcomed by the Copyright Alliance, NMPA, RIAA, and consumer advocates Public Knowledge. In an April 26 blog, Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy, delineated three fundamental principles that "should be the foundation of any update of the Copyright Act." Portnow wrote, "Creators should receive fair compensation for their work when it is exploited. ... A right is meaningless without reasonable enforcement. ... Freedom of expression depends on copyright." As the House Judiciary Committee examines how copyright law is working in the digital age, better protection for those three elements will fill the future with the creative vitality we all deserve.

The Imperfect Resolution Of Copyright Litigation On Appeal
Two recent judicial rulings illustrate the slow pace and uncertainty of resolving rules for digital-age copyright through the courts. On April 18 Viacom lost its second battle in three years against YouTube in the U.S. District Court. YouTube hailed this as a big win and Viacom promised to appeal, but the potential for a decisive resolution lies with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which sent the case back down to the District Court in 2012. Round one in the lower court was won by YouTube on summary judgment over the issue of specificity regarding infringed files (not "works" in the sense of titles but actual digital files), and the appeals court said the lower court must reconsider whether YouTube was willfully blind to infringement. Round two in the lower court again went to YouTube, relying on file-level specificity regarding willful blindness and red-flag knowledge of infringement. Viacom has recognized that the higher court has greater freedom to address the substance of their arguments and so, at great expense for both sides, this massive lawsuit lumbers toward another round at the higher court. Separately, on April 23 in New York State's middle-level appeals division, Universal Music Group won a victory over Grooveshark on the issue of whether the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act "Safe Harbor" applies to pre-1972 recordings. The lower New York State Supreme Court said yes but the latest ruling considered that too much of a stretch and ruled that "it would be far more appropriate for Congress, if necessary, to amend the DMCA to clarify its intent, than for this Court to do so by fiat." Consideration of whether pre-1972 recordings should be brought under federal law is one of the many issues the Copyright Office believes needs a fresh look. The bottom line for both decisions is the uncertainty of whether the DMCA Safe Harbor defense will have enough holes in it to put some Internet service providers out of business. More definite answers are expected to take years and millions more dollars in litigation.

Lawmakers Keep The Pressure On Internet Advertising Networks
Goodlatte joined fellow co-chairs of the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus, Co-Chairs Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in an April 18 letter to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, asking for updates in the fight against funding pirate websites with ad dollars. The letter mentions IAB's support in 2012 for new best practices and this year's new USC Annenberg Innovation Lab monthly ranking of ad networks that support piracy, and questions the IAB member companies that appear on the Innovation Lab's lists. The letter was an effort to keep voluntary private-sector agreements moving forward.

New Public Domain Digital Public Library Launched
The Digital Public Library of America launched on April 18 in Boston. Its Internet home is and its partners include Harvard Library, Internet Archive, National Archives and Records Administration, New York Public Library, and the Smithsonian Institution. In addition to being an advocate for the public domain and a high-profile Internet portal, DPLA is an open-access platform that is interoperable with Europe's Europeana online library and has been constructed to encourage developers to innovate new ways for its materials to be used.

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 @ and sign up for Advocacy Action E-lerts.

Email Newsletter