ArtsWatch: Should Copyright Law Be Rewritten From Scratch?

Register of Copyrights encourages House committee to consider comprehensive revision
March 25, 2013 -- 7:45 am PDT
By Philip Merrill /

In recent news ...

House Judiciary Subcommittee Urged To Redraft Copyright Law
On March 20 the Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante testified before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet saying the time has arrived to begin a complete revision of U.S. copyright's statutory regulations. Previous Copyright Office studies and congressional hearings have produced evidentiary records on issues such as orphan works or granting a terrestrial radio performance right for sound recordings, and now the list is so extensive that Pallante believes it would be advantageous to address the issues collectively. She is also hopeful the Copyright Office's operations will be modernized, that fees will be allowed to subsidize improvements and that Congress will consider whether increasing its rulemaking responsibility might help copyright law adjust to the evolving challenges of digital technology. The process could last several years, but it is too soon to speculate whether lawmakers are ready to tackle such a challenge. Perhaps the biggest challenge is Pallante's call to create copyright regulations that are readable, intuitive and understandable by the public in order to promote wider respect for copyright and intellectual property.

Simon & Schuster Provide Authors And Agents With Piracy Portal
Publisher Simon & Schuster announced on March 21 that it will provide personalized piracy-tracking reports supplied by Attributor on its standard Author Portal and Agent Portal services that are routinely used to provide sales information. Creators and their representatives can view analytics quantifying takedown notices sent on their behalf and a list of sites that have received the most takedown notices. They can also detect infringing activity on their own and report it through a standard online form. The company's letter to its authors and illustrators concluded, "The battle against unauthorized sharing and downloading is ongoing and we will never be 100 percent successful. Our adversaries ... have no respect for your creative efforts and even less regard for your right to be fairly compensated for your work. However, with awareness, knowledge, vigilance, and action we can make a significant difference, and it is in that spirit that we now offer this information to you." While not all creative professionals will be interested in how they are being infringed upon, the availability of this information through an analytics dashboard is a service that has the potential to influence the development of others.

Supreme Court Rejects Geographical Restriction Of First Sale Doctrine
On March 19 the U.S. Supreme Court reversed and remanded the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley & Sons because it found the copyright statute supporting first-sale rights did not address the division of international distribution markets. Kirtsaeng was sued by John Wiley & Sons for importing and reselling textbooks from Thailand in the United States. The Copyright Alliance said the decision "gutted" previously settled law governing copyright and importation and suggested that, "Congress may need to step in." Consumer advocates hailed the ruling as a victory for the fair use doctrine, but that might be reading too much into a ruling that emphasized not reading too much into statutory language. Separately, the Supreme Court chose not to hear appeals from the $222,000 consumer file-sharing verdict against Jammie Thomas-Rasset and from the preliminary injunction that shut down TV streaming service Ivi, leaving the lower court rulings in place. Additionally, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed and clarified a lower court ruling against Universal Music Group, finding that the website Veoh was shielded from allegations of infringement by "safe harbor" provisions protecting Internet service providers that take down infringing material when notified.

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.

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