It is happening right now, at this moment. There is no denying it. The U.S. Copyright Law is going to be changed, and the process of review and comments has begun. Are you aware? Are you up to date? Would it impact you? Do you care?
If we are in any way affected by copyright law, I believe we have a responsibility, at this moment, to engage in the process. U.S. lawmakers, the U.S. Copyright Office, and industry leaders, are interested in what we, the stake holders, think. They are asking, they are inviting, and they are concerned. Are we ready to respond, or are we content with letting the changes occur without getting involved? If we don’t have the will to change it, we don’t have the right to criticize it.
This past week, The Copyright Office, on request of the House Judiciary Committee, was scheduled to take part in a roundtable discussion with music leaders in New York. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has held six hearings on the Copyright Law since this past March. According to Maria Pallante, the Register of Copyrights, this is the most activity in copyright hearings “in a very, very long time.” Maria Pallante has presented her own call to copyright change in a lecture delivered on March 4, 2013 at Columbia University, called “The Next Great Copyright Act”, which she also presented to the House Judiciary subcommittee on Intellectual Property a few weeks later. Have you read it? Do you know what some of those changes she is exploring are? (You can read her full lecture at http://www.copyright.gov/docs/next_great_copyright_act.pdf ).
The purpose of this blog for the coming months will be to dive into many, and hopefully most, of the intricate issues the music industry will be dealing with in copyright reform. Oh wait…I’m not going to use the word “reform”. Ms. Pallante has said numerous times that neither she, and to her knowledge, no one in Congress, is calling this “reform”. It’s an update. We’ll see. I believe big changes are necessary, and perhaps some things need to be completely eliminated, while other sections need to be started from scratch. The first Register of Copyrights, Thorvald Solberg, said in 1926, “there comes a time when the “subject ought to be dealt with as a whole, and not by further merely partial or temporizing amendments.” I think we’re now at one of those times.
I was able to spend most of a day last month (December) with Maria Pallante during a visit to Nashville, and I will tell you I found her to be a very smart, capable, dedicated, and forward thinking leader. I believe she is going to prove herself to be an effective “change agent” related to copyright law. She says she believes the updated law needs to be “forward thinking but flexible. It should not attempt to answer the entire universe of possible questions, but, no matter what, it must serve the public interest. Thus, it must confirm and rationalize certain fundamental aspects of the law, including the ability of authors and their licensees to control and exploit their creative works, whether content is distributed on the street or streamed from the cloud.”
The goal of this weekly blog is to provide succinct information, definition and updates on copyright law issues, to discuss specific pain points in the law, and kick around ideas of change. It is to motivate forward thinking stake holders to get engaged, to gather intelligent, new and creative ideas from those people, and to provide a focused forum, or “crowd source” medium, to discuss improvement of the law. It is also to establish the Nashville community as a very real and respected voice in the process.
We’ll cover ideas such as performance royalties for sound recordings in terrestrial radio; whether or not we need a compulsory license; whether the life of post 1978 copyrights should be decreased without additional registrations (an idea already floated by Ms. Pallante); and new license models for the digital space. I have a list of over 40 timely and relevant topics that are ready to be teed up to discuss.
While genuine copyright change is clearly a daunting endeavor, the bell to begin has been rung, and it’s time for critical thinkers to step into the game. Spread the word. We need you. And we need you now. Let’s don’t just leave this to a few individuals in Washington.
“None of us is as smart as all of us.” – Chinese proverb
ClearBox Rights, LLC
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