[Editor Charlie update: Here is a copy of the bill]
Google’s MIC Coalition is at it again. As predicted, the MIC Coalition is bringing orphan works through the back door with a new bill introduced in the dead of night under the misleading title “ Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act” or as we call it, The Shiv Act.
The bill hasn’t been introduced yet so we don’t quite know how bad it truly is, but here’s the summary:
Some of the key provisions of the Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act include:
Require the Register of Copyrights to establish and maintain a current informational database of musical works and sound recordings while granting the Register authority to hire employees and contractors, promulgate regulations, and spend appropriated funds necessary and appropriate to carry out these functions
Ensure that the database is made publicly accessible by the Copyright Office, in its entirety and without charge, and in a format that reflects current technological practices, and that is updated on a real-time basis
Limit the remedies available to a copyright owner or authorized party to bring an infringement action for violation of the exclusive right to perform publicly, reproduce or distribute a musical work or sound recording if that owner/ authorized party has failed to provide or maintain the minimum information required in the database.
That last point is where we get the shiv in the back. This is essentially saying what Google, Lessig and their fellow travelers have been saying for years–if you don’t observe the formality of registration, then you lose your rights to sue for infringement.
Note that this “register or lose it” approach is soft-pedaled in both the press release
This legislation really puts the “compulsory” in “compulsory licensing” with a vengeance and essentially undermines the very system it purports to “fix”–plus it is an obvious trojan horse for an orphan works regime that Big Tech lusts after behind some librarians–their human shields. (But see Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge: A View From Europe by Jean-Noël Jeanneney, the former president of the Biblioteque nationale de France, and Google’s Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars by Geoffrey Nunberg.)
If you have any doubt of what these people are up to, you need only look to the royalty-free 45 million mass NOIs that have been filed already using the registration system that does exist right now. The idea that the Copyright Office can handle setting up this unicorn database for the benefit of Big Tech at taxpayer expense is kind of a joke–until you realize that there was a “copyright coup in Washington” and the Google-backed Librarian of Congress is likely intending to appoint her own head of the Copyright Office unless the Senate passes S. 1010 the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017.
Whatever the discussions have been in the music community about the need for a “global rights database”, nobody ever said “And what we really need is a use it or lose it system that allows Big Tech to question every lawsuit based on whether a work was registered under the right title by the right people at the right time….” and so on and so on and so on.
This legislation has all kinds of potential international implications as did the taxpayer debacle known as the Fairness In Music Licensing Act, which benefited MIC Coalition members but has cost the U.S. taxpayer millions of dollars as a result of treaty violations. The MIC Coalition is back with more crony capitalism asking for another taxpayer funded even safer harbor, a legislated knife to stick in the backs of songwriters and artists.