House Judiciary Chief Calls for Review of Copyright Law
April 25, 2013 10:26 AM
Big media wants bills for more punitive enforcement, new media, internet firms, and activists fight back
Many senior justices complain the
copyright system in the U.S. is "broken"
, with the law struggling to deal with a new digital reality in which information is more easily shared.
Software copyright is often used (or abused) to try to prevent customers from
modifying (jailbreaking) devices they legally own
-- actions that violate provisions of the controversial
Digital Millennium Copyright Act
(DMCA) [PDF], which modified
of the U.S. Code. Another topic of controversy is backup copies. Industry officials argue that the DMCA is explicit -- no backups are allowed -- and insist customers should
simply repurchase content if their physical media is damaged
. Copyright law has also been at time abused
to take down legitimate websites
, sometimes even as an anticompetitive tactic by rivals.
U.S. Copyright Office
"Congress to once again think big" and enact copyright reform, crafting "the next great copyright act."
Congress is taking up copyright reform -- but which way will its reforms go is the pressing question. [Image Source: U.S. Congress]
At a celebration of
World Intellectual Property Day
Library of Congress
U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte
(D-Virg.) called on his House colleagues to heed the call,
The Internet has enabled copyright owners to make available their works to consumers around the world, but has also enabled others to do so without any compensation for copyright owners. Efforts to digitize our history so that all have access to it face questions about copyright ownership by those who are hard, if not impossible, to locate. There are concerns about statutory license and damage mechanisms.
Federal judges are forced to make decisions using laws that are difficult to apply today. Even the Copyright Office itself faces challenges in meeting the growing needs of its customers - the American public. ... The goal of these hearings will be to determine whether the laws are still working in the digital age.
This may be a case of being careful what you wish for. Big media has paid a tremendous amount of campaign donations to members of Congress. For example, between 2005 and 2011 large media interests
paid members of the U.S. Senate $86M USD
-- roughly a tenth of all their campaign costs.
Big media is slipping Congress loads of cash in hopes of more punitive copyright policy.
[Image Source: i-Sight]
Thus any copyright reform may come in the direction of furthering big media's dream goals, such as instituting stiff penalties for customers who use software to crack digital rights management and burn backup copies. This is certainly one debate to watch closely in coming months.
As for Rep. Goodlatte, it's hard to tell where his interests lies. He's received large donations from Google Inc. (
) and Pandora Media Inc. (
) on one side of the fence, and from Comcast Corp. (
) on the other side of the fence [
]. Thus he may be about as close to an unbiased party as you get in Congress these days, given that the special interest payouts (may) have balanced each other out.
U.S. House Judiciary Committee
"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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