U.S. copyright review expands

The House Judiciary Committee’s Intellectual Property Subcommittee is scheduled to hold its second hearing Thursday in its ongoing review of copyright law, this time focused on the role of technology in innovation. Witness scheduled to testify are Danae Ringelmann, founder of Indigogo; John Fructerman, CEO of Benetech; Nathan Seidel, CEO of online retailer SparkFun Electronics; Rakesh Agrawal, founder of SnapStream Media; and Van Lindberg, VP of intellectual property at Rackspace.
The first hearing, held last month, focused on the role of copyright in innovation.
It looks like the Judiciary Committee, which is working in partnership with the U.S. Copyright Office on its review, may have some competition for spearheading the U.S. effort to update its copyright policies, however. On Wednesday, the U.S. Commerce Department released its own 105-page “green paper” outlining a series of policy recommendations and suggested areas for discussion on what U.S. policy should be on copyright in the digital age.
The Commerce Department recommendations, which represent the views of the Obama Administration, come as the Judiciary Committee remains very much in fact-finding mode in its review, setting up the potential for conflicting agendas and timetables in what will inevitably be a contentious process of revising current copyright law and policy.
According to the press release accompanying the release of the, the green paper proposes the following actions:

  • Establishing a multistakeholder dialogue on improving the operation of the notice and takedown system under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
  • Soliciting public comment and convening roundtables on:
    • The legal framework for the creation of remixes;
    • The relevance and scope of the first sale doctrine in the digital environment;
    • The application of statutory damages in the context of individual file-sharers and secondary liability for large-scale online infringement;
    • The appropriate role for the government, if any, to help improve the online licensing environment, including access to comprehensive public and private databases of rights information.

In terms of specific policy recommendations, the green paper a “reiterates the Administration’s support for legislation creating a public performance right for the broadcasting of sound recordings and enabling prosecutors to seek felony penalties for unauthorized streaming to the public,” according to the press release. “It supports congressional or regulatory attention to determine how best to rationalize rate-setting standards for different types of music services; reform music licensing, particularly the mechanical license for musical compositions; and ensure consumers can unlock their cell phones, subject to applicable service agreements.”
The full green paper is available here (pdf).