U.S. lawmakers are currently working to update the country’s copyright laws. The process began earlier this month when the intellectual property subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee began holding hearings. One of the first proposals discussed was a new “safe harbor” for consumers, particularly for digital works.
As we have previously discussed on this IP Law Blog, the consensus is that U.S. copyright laws are long overdue for reform. Even the head of the U.S. Copyright Office acknowledged that many laws have failed to keep pace with technology and need to be reconsidered.
Jule Sigall, assistant general counsel for copyright at Microsoft, testified in favor of the new safe harbor for consumers who legally purchase digital works. As he explained, “The lack of clarity around reasonable and ordinary personal use has contributed to the declining public reputation of copyright and a lack of respect for the law among some consumers. Too often consumers view copyright as an impediment to their enjoyment of creative content they have paid for and a deterrent to innovation in new products and services.”
As he envisions it, the safe harbor’s legal protections would provide “certainty that the ordinary and reasonable personal use of legitimately purchased content will be enabled, not stifled, by copyright.” Sigall further clarified, “I’m not talking about piracy here, but situations in which consumers who have legitimately purchased content are confronted and confused by assertions that actions enabling the enjoyment of that content are somehow infringing.”
Pam Samuelson, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley Law School, indicated that she supported the idea. During her testimony, Samuelson characterized the consumer safe harbor as a top priority. Whether the safe harbor provision makes it into the new law is unclear, as the process is just beginning.
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