Tag Archives: The House Judiciary Committee

Coalition of Visual Artists Respond to House Judiciary Committee on U.S. Copyright Office Reform

On January 30, 2017 DMLA Digital Media Licensing Association) joined with the other members of a Coalition of Visual Artists (APA, ASMP, GAG, NPPA, NANPA, and PPA) in a joint response to the House Judiciary Committee with comments to the first proposal by Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers “Reform of the U.S. Copyright Office.”

After months of hard work to reach consensus and a united voice, our comments, entitled “Creating a USCO Capable of Succeeding in A Changing World”, begins “Collectively, all members of the signatory associations depend on effective copyright protection and enforcement for their livelihood.”

Read all about it here with a link to the full comments.

COMMENTS ON THE REFORM OF U.S. COPYRIGHT OFFICE

On January 30, 2017 DMLA joined with the other members of a Coalition of Visual Artists (APA, ASMP, GAG, NPPA, NANPA, and PPA) in a joint response to the House Judiciary Committee with comments to the first proposal by Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers “Reform of the U.S. Copyright Office.”

After months of hard work to reach consensus and a united voice, our comments, entitled “Creating a USCO Capable of Succeeding in A Changing World”, begins “Collectively, all members of the signatory associations depend on effective copyright protection and enforcement for their livelihood.” To ensure that happening we continue “We join with the Judiciary Committee’s call for greater autonomy for the Copyright Office. Regardless of whether the Office remains an independent agency housed in the Library of Congress, or an independent agency under the Legislative Branch with no connection to the Library of Congress, history has demonstrated that it is essential that it have autonomy over the its budget and its technology needs as well as its operational procedures (staffing, fees, structure, etc.).

The comments of the coalition also address the issue of the Register of Copyrights:
“We further support the selection of the Register of Copyrights as a Presidential appointee. If the judiciary committee decides to pursue this approach, we urge the Congress to move with great alacrity in passing the necessary legislation and respectfully urge the Librarian to refrain from appointing a new Register and instead await such legislative action. We fear that otherwise, many qualified candidates may not be willing to take the position of Register under existing procedures, uncertain whether that their appointment may be just months long.”
The Small Claims System Hosted by the United States Copyright Office” is also addressed “For the members of the visual arts community the overriding purpose of a copyright small claims proposal is narrow and straightforward: to end a longstanding inequity in our copyright system and finally provide photographers, illustrators, graphic artists, other visual artists and their licensing representatives with a fair, cost-effective and streamlined venue in which they can seek relief for relatively modest copyright infringement claims.
Under current law, too many legitimate copyright claimants are unable to pursue a copyright infringement action in federal court. This is due primarily to the prohibitive cost of retaining counsel and maintaining the litigation for some of these high volume, relatively low value claims brought by visual artists—a situation exacerbated by the fact that “they are often opposed by large corporations with limitless resources and the resolve to complicate and protract a case in hopes that the plaintiff runs out of patience, money or both.”

A full copy of the Coalition of Visual Artists comments can be found here. (You will need to scroll down to Amicus Briefs and Notices of Inquiries)

 

DMLA Legal Update

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.

DMLA Participates in Various Meetings with the House Judiciary Committee

On November 3, Nancy Wolff, DMLA Counsel, attended the Rights Caucus for the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, DC.  The event was held in a Judiciary Committee hearing room in the Rayburn House Office Building.

The Creative Rights Caucus is a bi-partisan legislative “listening” committee co-Chaired by Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) and Representative Doug Collins (R-GA). It is dedicated to protecting the rights of content creators. More importantly, the Caucus aims to help the public understand that we cannot judge the entertainment industry by how well famous Hollywood or music stars are doing.

The event was organized by David Trust, Executive Director of the PPA (Professional Photographers of America), who also moderated the panel discussion. Panelists included photographer Denis Reggie, illustrator John Schmelzer, photographer Mary Fisk Taylor, graphic artist Lisa Shaftel, and photographer Michael Grecco.

There was an extraordinary turn-out of approximately 150 people and standing room only in the hearing room.

Afterwards Nancy joined the PPA and other association representatives in meeting some congressional staffers as well as Congressman Hakeen Jeffries of New York about the issues of the image licensing industry and about legislation to support a copyright small claims court and the modernization of the Copyright Office.

 

On November 10, 2015, Sarah Fix, DMLA President participated in a private meeting in Los Angeles bringing Members of the United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee and their staff together with photographers and photo/visual editors representing ASMP, APA, DMLA and NPPA to discuss the marketplace realities facing professional photographers as small business owners and representatives of the creative class.

Organized and moderated by ASMP Executive Director, Tom Kennedy, it was a lively discussion covering a wide range of topics of concern to photographers including:

  • Modernization of the Copyright Office and the need to simplify copyright registration.
  • The creation of a Copyright Small Claims Court as a remedy for infringements that cannot realistically be pursued within the Federal court system.
  • The proliferation of infringement fostered by digital distribution systems and the commercial harm caused by such rampant infringements.
  • The challenges presented by “click-bait” sites whose entire business models are built around intentional infringement.

The House Committee seemed to respond well to the first-hand accounts from the presenters and generally agreeable to the ideas shared at the meeting including the Copyright Small Claims Court. It seemed clear that their legislative solutions would include individual creators.

 

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.