Here at FMC, we regularly engage in a kind of protracted dialog with government through public comments and other filings that can extend over years (actually, thirteen and counting!). While we don’t claim to have all the answers, we do believe that our history of direct engagement with musicians, composers, independent labels, publishers, PROs, unions and others is useful for policymakers to consider as they grapple with the many questions facing creators in the digital age.
On Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2013, FMC filed comments with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) regarding their recent “green paper”—itself a product of the Internet Policy Task Force comprised of USPTO, the Department of Commerce and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Way back in 2010, we filed comments in the original proceeding that resulted in this year’s report, Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy [PDF].
While the Task Force posed a wide variety of questions for public comment, we chose to speak specifically to those issues where we have some history and background. Those include streamlining licensing, notice-and-takedown/safe harbor requirements for websites and Internet companies, as well as how best to approach sampling and remix culture.
We also once again go on record in support of voluntary global copyright registries and/or authentication databases to create greater efficiency and get more musicians and composers paid. We also stress the importance of transparency and artist leverage on digital services and the importance of involving creators in debates about the structures and policies that impact the entire music ecosystem.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we take a middle ground position on most of these issues. For example, we recognize the benefits of safe harbors for websites and Internet companies as a means of encouraging the very innovations that musicians and other creators use every day. But we also recognize the frustration expressed by many rightsholders—including individual artists and independent labels and publishers—that it is difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with the scale and scope of online infringement. Our sense is that any productive steps to alleviate these tensions will require the good-faith engagement of many stakeholders, including musicians. This is something that the government can help facilitate.
Finally, we refer to the impressive research conducted by FMC Board member and Northwestern University professor Peter DiCola and University of Iowa professor and co-author Kembrew McLeod in their book Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling.This comprehensive work covers everything from the history of hip-hop to today’s mash-up and remixes. Our comments explore several possible solutions aimed at preserving and growing a legitimate marketplace for sampling while allowing for the ongoing dialog between our cultural heritage and new creative innovations.
This request for public comments is timed to lead up to a public stakeholder meeting to be held on Dec. 12, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the USPTO office in Alexandria, VA. The meeting is open to all members of the public on a first-come, first-served basis. If you’re interested in attending, we suggest that you pre-register online now. And if you can’t make in person, tune in to www.uspto.gov for information on the live webcast of the event. An additional comment period will follow the meeting.