Federal lawmakers are calling for an independent Copyright Office that would be led by a Register nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday released the first in what is expected to be a series of reforms. They suggest keeping a newly independent office in the Legislative branch, and funding technology upgrades including a searchable, digital database of historical and current copyright ownership.
Coming on the heels of the resignation of Copyright Register Maria Pallante, and previous suggestions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, the proposals set up a show-down between Congress and new librarian Carla D. Hayden over the future of the agency.
WASHINGTON—Congressmen Doug Collins, Vice Chair of the Judiciary Committee’s Intellectual Property Subcommittee, and Tom Graves, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, have written a letter to the Librarian of Congress regarding Maria Pallante’s departure from the Copyright Office. The content of the letter is below:
The Honorable Carla Hayden
Librarian of Congress
Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue, SE
Washington, D.C. 20540
Dear Dr. Hayden,
We are writing today regarding the recent departure of Maria Pallante from her position as Register of Copyrights at the United States Copyright Office.
As you know, Ms. Pallante had served in her position for nearly six years, administering copyright law, protecting copyright principles, and expressing a commitment to modernizing the Copyright Office while fulfilling her statutory role.
Ms. Pallante’s recent departure was unexpected, and many questions remain surrounding the circumstances, including her proposed reassignment to a role less relevant to her experience with copyrights and intellectual property and with limited interaction with Members of Congress.
The proposed reassignment and subsequent resignation of Ms. Pallante highlights the need to have further discussion regarding the direction of the Copyright Office. As Members of Committees that have a strong interest in the role and work of the Copyright Office, we believe it is critical that the Copyright Office continue to serve as a guardian of intellectual property rights while working towards modernization that provides the type of access and usability that Americans have rightly come to expect in today’s interconnected world.
Protection of intellectual property, including copyright, was woven into the Constitution by our nation’s Founders. The United States Copyright Office plays a vital role in that protection, and Congress relies on it to provide analysis, guidance, and expertise on copyright issues. Because of the critical role the Copyright Office plays, it is imperative to ensure that current and future leadership at that office demonstrates a clear commitment to ensuring the protection of intellectual property rights while meeting 21st Century needs.
Given the importance of a strong relationship between the Copyright Office and Congress, we encourage you to ensure that recent actions surrounding that office do not limit the ability of the Copyright Office to advise Congress candidly and directly. It is imperative that among the many duties the Copyright Office performs, it continues to be able to “Advise Congress” and “Provide information and assistance to Federal departments and agencies and the Judiciary on national and international issues relating to copyright,” as provided in the Copyright Act. Additionally, we urge you to ensure that the efforts at Copyright Office modernization crafted by the Copyright Office in response to public consultation are continued.
We look forward to having further discussions with you regarding the concerns highlighted above as well as the search process for a new Register of Copyrights.
Doug Collins Tom Graves
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Donald Trump is rumored to be appointing Google crony Joshua Wright to oversee Federal Trade Commission policy. Google couldn’t ask for more.
[Editor Charlie sez: Because MIC Coalition members got legislation passed that violates international law, the U.S. lost a WTO arbitration so the U.S. taxpayer paid royalties to Irish songwriters that American songwriters don’t get paid. It would have been cheaper for the taxpayer to stop this crony capitalism and require the restaurants to pay songwriters like everyone else.]
The part of the U.S. Copyright Act that exempts some small restaurants and bars from paying public performance fees to collecting societies could be costing rightsholders more than $150 million a year, according to a study by the consultancy PMP Conseil.
The study was presented today (Nov. 8) by Keith Donald, chairman of the Irish Collecting Society IMRO, at a meeting of the International Council of Creators of Music. The research was funded by GESAC, the organization of European composers groups, in an effort to push the U.S. to change its copyright laws.
The issue stems from 1998, when Congress passed the Fairness in Music Licensing Act, which let more bars and restaurants play music on a stereo or television without getting public performance licenses from ASCAP or BMI. (The bill was attached to the Copyright Term Extension Act.) Although more sweeping exemptions in the original text of the bill were withdrawn, the final version allows restaurants and bars of less than 3,750 square feet to play music without a license, provided they meet certain conditions.
After the law took effect, the European Commission began a dispute proceeding against the U.S. at the World Trade Organization, on the grounds that the exemption violated the Berne Convention — which the U.S. is obligated to abide by under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS). The WTO ruled in favor of the Commission, and in 2003 and 2004, under the terms of a settlement, the U.S. paid into a European Union fund to benefit songwriters. But it hasn’t paid since then.
Editor Charlie sez: Remember that the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division came up with a very Googley fairy tale about 100% licensing? Remember how the DOJ lost that case in the BMI Rate Court?
Now the U.S. government is appealing the case from the BMI Rate Court to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to try to stick it to songwriters even harder.
Obama like many political leaders has relied upon songwriters to shape his public persona and image. But Obama has also allowed his antitrust division to relentlessly persecute songwriters in ways that benefit Silicon Valley firms that are among his largest campaign donors.
Politicians, especially democratic politicians have always appealed to songwriters and performers for help campaigning and in shaping their images. But once the election is over we never see anything in return. Not even a “thank you.” But our long running abusive relationship with politicians seems to have hit a new low. It appears the Obama DOJ purposely waited until after all those celebrity/songwriter/performer campaign rallies were finished before they renewed their “100% licensing” legal crusade against songwriter non-profits BMI and ASCAP.
And I do mean “purposely waited.” Let me explain.
When will tech companies start taking responsibility for DMCA counter notices that are obviously wrong?
Last week, both the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Universal Music Group filed petitions with the United States Supreme Court in regard to what is commonly known as the “Dancing Baby” case. The “baby” in question is about 11 years old now, and for those who might not know how a mundane home video became the focus of a multi-year, federal litigation now begging the attention of the Supreme Court, let’s review …
In February of 2007, Holden Lenz of Pennsylvania was just 18 months old when his mother Stephanie video-taped him dancing to Prince’s song “Let’s Go Crazy” and then posted the video on YouTube—a platform that was just six months older than Holden. Because Prince was especially guarded about all uses of his music—and was justifiably critical of YouTube in particular—the Lenz video was one of several targets added to a list of DMCA takedown notices to be filed by Universal Music Group on the artist’s behalf. The “Dancing Baby” video was removed on June 5, 2007, and according to an ABC News story published in October of that year, Lenz stated that she was initially “frightened” about having her video removed from YouTube, concerned that UMG might file suit against her, and then the fear of said litigation made her “angry.”
So between the Summer and Fall of 2007, the public version of this story had already begun to stray from the relevant facts in the case. For starters, Ms. Lenz had, on her own, immediately sent an incorrectly filled-out DMCA counter notice on June 7 seeking to restore her video. But if she were truly “frighted” about a lawsuit by UMG, that would have been the moment for her to proceed with caution because a DMCA counter notice can, in some cases, trigger legal action by a rights holder. Subsequently, at the advice of an attorney friend, Lenz contacted the Electronic Frontier Foundation to better understand her options, believing at the time that UMG might have infringed her First Amendment right of free speech.
Read the post on David Newhoff’s blog The Illusion of More