Category Archives: Copyright Office

Copyright Small Claims White Paper Released by Visual Arts Associations

Seven visual arts associations release proposal to Congress for copyright small claims legislation.

 March 2, 2016 – While there has been a great deal of discussion recently about the possibility of Congress creating a small claims process for visual arts, several visual artist groups, representing hundreds of thousands of creators, have joined forces to propose key components of potentially forthcoming small claims legislation. Collectively, the groups represent photographers, photojournalists, videographers, illustrators, graphic designers, artists, and other visual artists as well as their licensing representatives.

The white paper, which can be viewed here, advocates for the creation of a small claims tribunal within the U.S. Copyright Office. The document is a collaboration between American Photographic Artists (APA), American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA), Graphic Artists Guild (GAG), National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) and Professional Photographers of America (PPA).

These organizations have identified the creation of a small claims option to be their most urgent legislative priority before Congress. They assert that the cost and burden of maintaining a lawsuit in the only existing venue for hearing copyright infringement claims—federal district courts—is prohibitive and all too often leaves visual artists no way to vindicate their rights. They see a small claims process within the Copyright Office as providing a fair, cost-effective and streamlined venue in which they can seek relief for relatively modest copyright infringement claims.

This negotiated document, which lays out the basic framework for small claims legislation, is in large part consistent with the legislative recommendations set out in the “Copyright Small Claims” report released in late 2013 by the U.S. Copyright Office. In some instances, the white paper offers alternative suggestions to those put forth by the Copyright Office.

Nancy Wolff, DMLA Counsel, has been an active participant in this process “DMLA stands with the visual artist community in support of the Copyright Office’s initiative to create an alternative to Federal Court to address copyright claims of lesser value. The licensing industry depends upon affordable and effective enforcement of copyright to reduce the use of unlicensed imagery, and this creates a path to increased licensing compliance and respect for copyright.”

The visual artists’ organizations listed above have now distributed this legislative proposal for a copyright small claims tribunal to members of Congress, the United States Copyright Office, the members of the undersigned organizations, and other important copyright stakeholders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW COPYRIGHT NOTICE OF INQUIRY

The US Copyright Office has issued a Notice of Inquiry seeking input on issues related to the DMCA safe harbors and the notice-and-takedown provisions. They are specifically looking for input from the perspectives of large- and small-scale copyright owners and online service providers. A copy of the notice can be found here. I plan to respond on behalf of DMLA. Individual members are free to file their own responses as well.

As background, the DMCA notice-and-takedown procedure was created by Congress in 1998 as a means by which copyright owners and representatives can address online infringement, and online service providers can limit their liability for third party conduct on the web; it was intended to help foster the growth of the internet. The process begins when a copyright owner gives an online service provider notice of specific infringing conduct, as well as certain additional information as required by Section 512(c)(3) of the Copyright Act. Following receipt of notice, the OSP must either comply with the takedown request and remove the infringing content from their website or submit a counter notification attesting to their rightful use of the allegedly infringing content. This process can, to a certain extent, be automated using software that searches for infringing uses. However, the fact that an OSP complies with a takedown request for one particular infringing use does not prevent additional infringing uses from appearing on the OSP’s website in the future. Each instance of infringement must be addressed by the notice-and-takedown process. This process has proven overwhelming for most content owners and has been likened to a game of whack a mole where as soon as you have infringing content taken down, it appears on another site so you are continuously in a cycle of sending takedown notices. Many content owners do not have the resources or staff to continually search the Internet for unauthorized uses of content.

In preparing my response, I’m seeking input from members. The notice has 30 specific issues that we can address. Of particular interest to the DMLA and its Members are the Copyright Office’s following issues:

  1. How has the safe harbor for internet service providers impacted the protection and value of copyrighted works, including licensing markets for such works? And have the safe harbors struck the correct balance between copyright owners and online service providers?
  2. How effective, efficient, and/or burdensome is the notice-and-takedown process for addressing online infringement?
  3. Does the notice-and-takedown process sufficiently address the reappearance of infringing material previously removed in response to a notice?
  4. Are there any existing or emerging “standard technical measures” that could or should apply to obtain the benefits of the section 512 safe harbors.(For example, should the OSPs work with image libraries in using image recognition technology to eliminate infringing works from their sites?
  5. What, if anything, should be done to address these concerns?

Please will free to send comments to me on these or any of the other issues addressed in the notice of inquiry. I plan to coordinate responses with the various other associations involved in the visual content community. The notice of inquiry must be submitted by March 21, 2016. If I could have responses by March 1, it would be greatly appreciated.

Nancy Wolff                                                                                                                                                     DMLA counsel (nwolff@cdas.com)

Reps. Chu, Marino Introduce Bill with Historic Reforms to the Copyright Office

Washington, D.C.—Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), Congressman Tom Marino (PA-10) and Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (VA-10) have introduced H.R. 4241 – the Copyright Office for the Digital Economy Act or the CODE Act. This comes after months of discussion with various stakeholders, including several joint Member roundtables.

As a result, improvements were made to the bill which reflect a consensus across various industries and public interest groups since the discussion draft bill was released for comment in June. Among the new changes are:

  • Housing the Copyright Office in the Legislative Branch
  • Requiring ongoing technology studies to ensure the office remains current with technology to be more user friendly which includes improving upon the searchable database
  • The establishment of an advisory board representing a variety of interests and views tasked with providing the Office with candid feedback on the office current field of copyright to ensure neutrality and objectivity
  • Technical provisions to ensure a more seamless transition away from the Library of Congress

Congresswoman Chu said the following of the bill:

“I am proud to join Rep. Marino to introduce legislation that would modernize the Copyright Office. The copyright industries are responsible for millions of jobs and billions of dollars in our economy, yet the office responsible is running on analog in a digital world. Over the course of this year, we met with interested stakeholders to discuss the needs of the Copyright Office and the changes we must make to bring it into the modern age. I appreciate their participation and the feedback we received that helped shape this legislation. As a result, this bill would make operational improvements, provide budgetary control to the Copyright Office, and ensure that it has sound legal ground to perform its core mission. I look forward to continuing my work with colleagues and interested parties on the improvements needed to ensure that our country has a Copyright Office that reflects the 21st century.”

Congressman Marino said:

“Creativity is the essence that has made America the most prosperous nation in the world. However, we have allowed our Copyright Office to fall behind the fast-moving pace of America’s creators and the industries they work within, which hurts copyright holders as well as the public. This bill will ensure the Office has great autonomy to more quickly adapt to changes in technology and accessibility to ensure the public can enjoy the benefits of creative works while ensuring the artists get paid. We approached this effort thoroughly and sought the advice and feedback of everyone interested in copyright. This bill is well thought-out, reasonable and provides a long-term solution to the Copyright Office’s ailments. I am more than confident this proposal will garner more and more support as we move forward.”

 

 

Copyright Review By Congress

By Nancy Wolff, DMLA Counsel, Cowan DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard, LLP

The House Judiciary Committee began a comprehensive review of the current Copyright Act beginning in 2013.   It held 20 hearings and heard from 100 witnesses.

I testified in July 2014 at the hearing regarding copyright remedy in favor of a copyright small claim court as an alternative to federal court for claims of relatively lesser economic value. [A copy of the statement I submitted is [here]

The hearings ended earlier this year and the House Judiciary Committee invited the witnesses to return for individual meeting with the bipartisan committee staff.

On September 1, I met with Joe Keeley and David Greengrass, to discuss any updates to my testimony and other issues that affect members of DMLA and the visual arts community in general. One of the purposes is to potential changes that may needed to the Copyright Act current and relevant with the digital economy.

Issues we discussed include copyright small claims, removing the Copyright Office from the Library of Congress to provide it with more autonomy and control over its budget; orphan works; copyright registration; a pilot program for a an extended Collective licensing of images; the expansion of fair use and the use of framing images to circumvent licensing. We discussed issues and proposed solutions for nearly two hours.   I focused on strengthening licensing by easier registration; a copyright small claims court for more effective copyright enforcement and stopping the expansion of fair use and framing to uses that should be licensed.

It is not clear when any proposed legislation will be taken up. It would seem that making the Copyright office a stronger agency with autonomy would be a first step, as the Copyright Office could oversee any newly formed small claims dispute resolution, or other pilot programs.

The House Judiciary Committee is currently setting up a “Listening Tour” around the country to hear the views of photographers, illustrators, graphics artists, etc.  They are sending 12 representatives and 12 staffers for face-to-face conversations to discuss a variety of issues notedly small claims, fair use, and copyright modernization.

I will keep you posted on further developments.

Copyright Registration Systems Are Back Online

From the Library of Congress:

Systems of the United States Copyright Office are back online as of 8:00 am, Sunday, September 6, 2015 and customers may resume submitting registration applications electronically.

As previously reported, on Friday, August 28th, the Library of Congress shut down a data center that hosts a number of agency technology systems, including the Copyright Office’s electronic registration program.  This was done to accommodate a two-day annual power outage scheduled by the Architect of the Capitol, which owns and maintains Library buildings.  On Sunday, August 30th, the Library attempted to reopen the data center, but was unable to bring copyright systems and other agency functions online as planned.  Both Library and Copyright Office staff have since worked around the clock to assess problems and solutions and ensure the ongoing integrity of Copyright Office data.

Thank you for your ongoing patience.

 

Copyright Office Requests Public Comment on Mass Digitization Pilot Program

The U.S. Copyright Office has published a Federal Register notice requesting written comments to assist it in developing draft legislation that would establish a legal framework for certain mass digitization activities. For the past several years, the Office has been exploring ways to facilitate and support mass digitization projects serving the public interest while appropriately balancing the interests and concerns of copyright owners. In its recently issued Orphan Works and Mass Digitization Report, the Office proposed the creation of a limited “pilot program” that would allow certain types of mass digitization projects to be authorized through a system known as extended collective licensing (ECL). The ECL pilot program recommended by the Office would enable users to digitize and provide access to certain works for research and education purposes under conditions to be agreed upon between rightsholder and user representatives.

Because the success of such a system depends on the voluntary involvement of both copyright owners and users, the Office is inviting public comment on several issues concerning the scope and operation of the pilot program. The Office will then seek to facilitate further discussion through stakeholder meetings and, if necessary, additional requests for written comment. Based on this input, the Office will draft a formal legislative proposal for Congress’s consideration.

The Notice of Inquiry is available here. Written comments are due on or before August 10, 2015.

DMLA via our counsel, Nancy Wolff, is working on comments representing our association.  We are also working with our Ad Hoc Association Group so that our comments are aligned and that we speak as a united industry.  Please feel free to send your input to Nancy at NWolff@cdas.com

Copyright Office Issues a Notice of Inquiry on Photographs, Graphic Artworks, and Illustrations

The U.S. Copyright Office has published a Federal Register notice requesting written comments on how certain visual works, particularly photographs, graphic artworks, and illustrations, are monetized, enforced, and registered under the Copyright Act. The Office is specifically interested in the current marketplace for these visual works, as well as observations regarding the real or potential obstacles that these authors and, as applicable, their licensees or other representatives face when navigating the digital landscape.

Photographers, graphic artists, and illustrators have expressed a growing list of concerns in recent years when speaking to both the Copyright Office and Members of Congress. This Notice of Inquiry thus builds upon our longstanding policy interest in these types of visual works, including the Copyright Office’s studies in a number of areas such as small claims, the making available right, resale royalties, registration, recordation, and the interoperability of records. As always, the Office is interested in the perspectives of copyright owners as well as users of these creative works. This is a general inquiry that will likely lead to additional specific inquiries.

The Notice of Inquiry is available here. Written comments are due on or before July 23, 2015, and reply comments are due on or before August 24, 2015.

DMLA will be preparing a response to this inquiry and we welcome input from our members. Please contact Nancy Wolff, DMLA Counsel at NWolff@cdas.com with your comments.