ArtsWatch: Help Wanted — 2011 Register Of Copyrights

Copyright Office leader Marybeth Peters to retire at end of the year
  • Chuck Gibbins
    Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters
September 20, 2010 -- 8:04 am PDT
By Philip Merrill /

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.

On Sept. 13 Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters announced her intention to retire on Dec. 31, having served as the leader of the Copyright Office in Washington, D.C., since 1994. Peters held the position's longest tenure except for Thorvald Solberg, the first Register of Copyrights who served from 1897–1930. Law grads have until Oct. 12 to apply for this important position, which works under the Librarian of Congress to manage the Copyright Office and provide Congress and the public with expert opinion on matters of copyright law. Typically, such opinions are needed on issues in which the law is unsettled because detailed statutes or authoritative case law do not yet exist. In the past year, ArtsWatch coverage of Peters includes September 2009 testimony before Congress on Google's book scanning, informing the Copyright Royalty Board in April that neither herself nor the CRB had authority to strike down copyright laws as unconstitutional, and proposing the initial list of permitted forms of hacking that the Librarian of Congress announced in July.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of software company Autodesk on Sept. 10, reversing a U.S. District Court decision that would have permitted the vendor's software to be resold. This case will likely be appealed and threatens the resale or rental of almost any piece of intellectual property with the exception of printed books, because the decision upholds the right of content owners to forbid such commerce by using fine-print agreements. Consumer advocates Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge expressed disappointment with the ruling. The Copyright and Technology blog summed things up by saying, "If you don't like technology-based [digital rights management restrictions], you're [going to] really hate what can only be called verbal DRM." For example, music consumers often think that when they buy a compact disc they then own it, and are allowed to sell it to a used record store — this new ruling could put an end to such transactions if CDs were allowed to be sold with restrictive user licenses. As Public Knowledge explained, the first sale doctrine was created by a 1908 U.S. Supreme Court decision against a publisher whose book came with a printed notice that "reselling the book for under a dollar would be considered copyright infringement." Uncertainty over the scope of the first sale doctrine illustrates the huge potential consequences for businesses and consumers that can attach to unsettled issues in copyright law.

On Sept. 9 PandaLabs released the results of a three-month survey of phishing attacks by hackers who exploited 375 of the world's best-known brand names through the creation of fake websites. The results show an average of 57,000 deceptive sites are created each week. Approximately two-thirds of these mimic banks' sites, reaching out to consumers via e-mails or search engine results, and tricking them into revealing login and password information. Cnet News elaborated on what people need to know to protect themselves. PandaLabs encourages Internet users to type important Web addresses directly into their browsers, instead of clicking to famous names through search engine results or e-mails. The three brands most frequently misused are eBay, Visa and Western Union.

Microsoft responded on Sept. 13 to The New York Times' coverage two days before that alleged Russian security police had exploited antipiracy raids as a deceptive device to crack down on activist groups and confiscate their computers. Besides promising to improve its communications with local consumers and its supervision of local attorneys — some of whom are accused of cooperating with the police more than they represent Microsoft — the software giant is putting in place a new blanket license for activist groups intended to make them immune from accusations of pirating Microsoft software. Microsoft General Counsel and Senior Vice President Brad Smith said, "We want to be clear that we unequivocally abhor any attempt to leverage intellectual property rights to stifle political advocacy...."

On Sept. 14 the Australian Federal Police observed a National Enforcement Day focused on intellectual property theft, and held a press conference attended by representatives of Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, Business Software Alliance, Microsoft, and Music Industry Piracy Investigations. BSA Australia Committee Co-Chair Clayton Noble said, "The AFP's National Enforcement Day is an essential step for protecting the growth, talent and innovation in Australia's software industry, along with the film and music industries." published "Third Time's The Charm?" on Sept. 15 — an in-depth feature on Bill C-32, Canada's Copyright Modernization Act, which was introduced in June. As far as unsettled issues of copyright law accompanied by related uncertainty, the contrast between Canada's lack of a rigorous framework and what we have in the United States is startling. Despite the frustrations and progress that can be perceived as either slow or still nonexistent, our northern neighbor is headed toward its own system of stricter intellectual property regulations and that is a direction to be welcomed.


Email Newsletter