The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet will hold a hearing on May 16 titled “A Case Study for Consensus Building: The Copyright Principles Project.” The hearing, at 2 p.m. eastern, is the second in House Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte’s push for major copyright reform.
A source tells Billboard witnesses at the hearing will include Jule Sigall of Microsoft Corp.; Jon A. Baumgarten of Proskauer Rose LLP; Daniel Gervais of Vanderbilt Law School; Pamela Samuelson of Berkeley Law School; and Laura Gasaway of University of North Carolina School of Law.
The Copyright Principles Project (CPP) is a report published in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal in 2010. The result of three years of conversations, the report was written with the input of academics, private practitioners and corporate attorneys. All five people expected to be witnesses Thursday contributed to the report. Mary Beth Peters, the head of the Copyright Office at the time the report was released, complimented its identification and discussion of issues and said she supported its recommendations “in many cases.”
The report's seven guiding principles show that its authors seek copyright law that is more flexible for all parties. One is that copyright law should articulate "clear and sensible rules" regarding ownership of works. Another says that copyright law should give creators exclusive rights while encouraging them to "explore different ways of reaching audiences for the works" by reaching audiences directly through conventional or "open" licensing models. A third says copyright law should encourage innovation and competition amongst digital service providers.
Some of the CPP's positions clash with those of the music industry. For example, a majority of CPP members believe the duration of U.S. copyright terms "is longer than is needed" and impedes some goals of the copyright regime. Another example is fair use. The CPP also proposes refining fair use such that more non-commercial uses would be allowed.
But some aspects of the CPP's paper would undoubtedly be welcomed. In particular, a recommendation for a "small claims procedure" to settle small-scale copyright disputes would be welcomed by individuals and small companies who cannot undertake large-scale copyright infringement lawsuits.
The report has a few holes. As musician David Lowery notes in an article at Politco, the CPP's paper noticeably did not delve into the takedown requests that copyright owners send in great numbers to digital service providers, although it mulls over DMCA safe harbors without putting forth possible solutions. Lowery also takes issue with a lack of creators on the CPP, although no label, publisher or digital service provider (with the exception of Microsoft) was represented, either.
Thursday's lineup of witnesses will offer is a vision for a roadmap absent of opinions of the self-interested. Labels, publishers, artists, digital service providers and trade groups will certainly have a seat at the table and will probably have an opportunity to speak at future hearings. The hearing is likely to be wonky and dry, but it is an important part of the process that could impact the music community for years to come.