The U.S. copyright system is in dire need of an overhaul, according to the Register of Copyrights, Maria A. Pallante. She recently testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet about the failure of copyright laws to keep up with technology.
As Pallante noted in her written testimony, our copyright system is starting to show its age. “Authors do not have effective protections, good faith businesses do not have clear roadmaps, courts do not have sufficient direction, and consumers and other private citizens are increasingly frustrated,” she noted.
Pallante further pointed out that our most modern copyright law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), is now fifteen years old. Most other portions of the Copyright Act date back to 1976.
As a result, U.S. copyright law does not reflect the digital age. “People around the world increasingly are accessing content on mobile devices and fewer and fewer of them will need or desire the physical copies that were so central to the 19th and 20th century copyright laws,” Pallante explained.
Going forward, Pallante noted that significant changes will be needed. “I think it is time for Congress to think about the next great copyright act, which will need to be more forward thinking and flexible than before. Because the dissemination of content is so pervasive to life in the 21st century, the law also should be less technical and more helpful to those who need to navigate it,” she stated.
With regard to the specific issues that Congress must address in updating U.S. copyright law, Pallante specifically referenced the following:
- Clarifying the scope of exclusive rights,
- Revising exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives,
- Addressing orphan works,
- Accommodating persons who have print disabilities,
- Providing guidance to educational institutions,
- Exempting incidental copies in appropriate instances,
- Updating enforcement provisions,
- Providing guidance on statutory damages,
- Reviewing the efficacy of the DMCA,
- Assisting with small copyright claims,
- Reforming the music marketplace,
- Updating the framework for cable and satellite transmissions,
- Encouraging new licensing regimes, and
- Improving the systems of copyright registration and recordation.
This is clearly a long list, and Congress’ task will not easy. However, the discussion has begun, the Copyright Office has scheduled a public meeting, barring a need to reschedule due to the current government shutdown, that is being held on October 30th. Pre-registration for the conference is available online and more information about the green paper is available at http://www.uspto.gov/ip/global/copyrights/index.jsp.
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