Copyright Review Under the Microscope at World Creators Summit

While U.S. register of copyright Marie Pallente called for Congress to perform a comprehensive review of copyright at the World Creators Summit held today in Washington, DC, other speakers during the day questioned if a surgical rewriting would be more practical to accomplish.

Pallente noted that the U.S. Copyright Office is involved in copyright policy and administration on a daily business and interacts with all stakeholders on all sides of the issue, which gives it a special vantage point.

"We tend to see concerns that are similar rather than unique, and provisions that are related rather than isolated," she said according to a copy of her speech provided to Billboard. "In looking across genres and business models, we view everything in relation to the statute as a whole. But we also understand that at the center of the equation is the well-being of authors and the health of the creative industries that support them quite simply because this is essential to the success for any system of copyright law.  Authors matter and they should be provided with incentives to continue to create work and protecting their rights."

But she also acknowledged that the Internet has changed so much and that any 21st century copyright system has to consider that access to creative works are essential to "our culture, commerce and progress as people."

Consequently, the exclusive rights of the authors must evolve to reflect the ways in which creators make their works available, which means that the control of copyright owners should not be absolute, she said.

Moving beyond the dichotomy between content owners and technology companies, she said another pressing priority is to enact a "more complete public performance right for sound recordings, something that record labels and artists have long sought." She called for a level playing field between webcasters, who pay performance royalties to artist and labels and terrestrial as well as publishers and songwriters, and radio broadcasters, who do not pay artists and labels and only compensate songwriters and publishers.

Revision must also address orphan works, which are a frustration, a liability risk and a major cause of gridlock in the digital marketplace, she said.

Further, she encouraged a diversity of licensing regimes, including direct; collective opt-in models; and as necessary, opt-out models. "Collective management of rights is good copyright practice," but how to reconcile it with protections against price-fixing and other anti-competitive behavior should be a government priority.

Also, she said there should be enforcement provision that explore a range of interlocking solutions between corporate sectors and between countries, particularly in the criminal context, while upholding due process.

She said a holistic approach will ensure that related issues are reviewed together like the public performance right in sound recordings, modernization of section 115, webcasting rates and streaming remedies; or library exceptions, mass digitalization, and orphan works.

The last time the U.S. Congress looked at copyright law it took 20 years to negotiate the 1976 reform law. The needs today are too pressing so the review needs to be more nimble since the groundwork has been laid for many of the issues through hearings, debates and numerous Copyright Office studies.

Finally, she noted that there is much public confusion over copyright, and reminded that we now live in a world where consumers inteact with copyright law directly and daily.

That is a lesson Congress has already learned from SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, when a grass roots revolt had authors of the law pulling their names from it in droves, noted California Congressman Anna G. Eshoo.

This time out in copyright revision, don't expect Congress to go down the same path to achieve copyright protection, said chairman of the Virginian Congressman Bob Goodlatte, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, which contains the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. Goodlatte will lead the Congressional discussion on copyright review. He said copyright protection can be achieved through other routes, but he expected voluntary agreements between different sectors to be one of the tools.

Yet earlier in the day, Songwriters Guild of America president Rick Carnes asked how copyright protection can be ignored when U.S. governement data showa that the songwriting industry lost 45% of its participants between 2002 and 2012.

Carnes also pointed out that during that time, Google's profit has grown by 58,000%. "I may be a conspiry theorist, but I think [those two statistics] are related," he said.

Moreover, if advertisers on the Internet can figure out what kind and size of underwear people are ordering, how come they can't figure out who is downloading illegal music and from where, asked Directors Guild Of America sixth VP and television director Vincent Misiano.

On the other end of the spectrum, Public Knowledge president and CEO Gigi Sohn said that while comprehensive copyright reform would be nice, it's not going to happen in today's political environment where one party will always move to stop what the other party does.

Instead, she urged surgical cuts to copyright law, and said Congress should look at things like orphan works and why DMCA prevents consumers from unlocking their phone, which they should be allowed to do if they want to use a different provider.

SGA's Carnes also felt a surgical approach should be taken, and says he has two chief concerns he hopes should be addressed in the upcoming copyright review. He ponders if the creative community should carry the burden of policing the entire Internet and if some of the burden shouldn't fall to the technology companies.

RIAA senior executive VP Mitch Glazier complained under the way law is currently written, his organization had just served the 20th million takedown notice on one copyright and knows that as soon as that digital service provider complies and removes it, it will be back up a few seconds later.

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