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.

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