By Nancy Wolff, DMLA Legal Counsel
NEWS FROM WASHINGTON
This past week was a busy week for DMLA. We had our annual in-person meeting with a number of visual art associations in Washington, DC last Tuesday. Thursday, the House of Representative’s Judiciary Committee released its first policy proposal to reform the Copyright Office after extensive review of the U.S. Copyright Act over the past few years. Also on Thursday Representatives Judy Chu and Lamar Smith introduced the Fairness for American Small Creators Act, a bill proposing as an alternative to federal court, a copyright small claims court within the Copyright Office.
In-Person Association Meeting
Since Congress attempted to pass orphan works legislation ten years ago, the heads and counsel of the visual arts related associations in the United States have met in-person each year to discuss mutual goals and issues. We’ve focused primarily with respect to the ongoing studies conducted by the Copyright Office on issues relating to visual images, registration and a copyright small claims as well as the House of Representative Judiciary Committee’s review of the U.S. Copyright Act. The importance of responding to Congress on these important issues with a more unified voice was a lesson learned during the orphan works legislation hearings in 2006. Although there are regular telephone meetings during the year to deal with ongoing issues, the annual meeting help shape the goals for the year and promotes unity. In addition to DMLA, the following associations participate in these meetings: American Association of Media Photographers (ASMP), Professional Photographers of America (PPA), National Press Photographers of America (NPPA), American Photographic Artists (APA), North American Nature Photographers Association (NANPA), the Graphic Artists Guild (GAG) and the Plus Coalition.
This year the annual meeting emphasized several hot topics, First, we focused on the replacement of Maria Pallante, the former register of the Copyright Office, who was summarily removed by the recently appointed Librarian of Congress on October 21, 2016 and had been sensitive to the issues of visual artists. Keith Kupferschmid, CEO of the Copyright Alliance, met with the group at lunch to discuss the selection process, as he knows it, and to work with us to suggest appropriate candidates. In addition, he also encouraged the various associations to support a survey currently being drafted by the Copyright Alliance to respond to a recent request from the Copyright Office for more data on Section 512 of the Copyright Act, concerning the effectiveness of the notice and take down process to remove infringing materials from Internet Service Providers.
Next, the continued support for a proposed copyright small claims court as an alternative to costly federal litigation was high on the agenda as well as modernizing the Copyright Office and improving registration of images. Many of the members had meetings on the Hill the remainder of the week to support Copyright Small Claims, organized by the PPA. In addition, Rob Kasunic, Associate Register of Copyrights and Director of Registration Practices at the Copyright Office, was invited to speak in the afternoon and he discussed the recent request -Notice of Inquiry (NOI) published by the Copyright Office seeking to limit group registration of photographs to 750 images. (More to come on that from the DMLA). Over the past months, the associations have had weekly calls regarding Copyright small claims legislation, which we intend to continue during the next year.
Thursday, December 8, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member John Conyers released the first policy proposal to come out of the Committee’s review of U.S. Copyright law. The document states that the Copyright Office should remain a part of the Legislative Branch and continue to provide advice to Congress. Further, the Office should have autonomy over its budget and technology needs. It supported the Copyright Office’s plan for IT modernization with searchable, digital databases. Additionally, it recommended that the Office host a small claims system consistent with the Copyright Office report to handle low value infringement cases. Reps. Goodlatte and Conyers released a statement and video stating that these policies are a starting point for further discussion by all stakeholders, with the goal of producing legislative text within each issue area. The Committee requests written comments from interested stakeholders by January 31, 2017.
With respect to the small claims system, on the same day, Representatives Judy Chu and Lamar Smith introduced the Fairness for American Small Creators Act, a bill proposing, as an alternative to federal court, a small claims court within the Copyright Office for copyright infringement lawsuits. More information is available at here.
The DMLA Legal Committee is reviewing the recent requests for information from the Copyright Office ad Congress for information of Section 512, registration and copyright small claims. 2017 looks like it could be an active year. If any legislation on copyright modernization or small claims is ready to be voted on, it will be important for DMLA members (and their contributors) to show support. We will keep you informed.