On Monday March 4th, US Register of Copyrights MariaPallantedelivered a speech at Columbia Law School entitled “The Next Great Copyright Act.” Her remarks drew immediate attention within the creative communities and beyond — after all, it’s not every day that the nation’s top official on copyright calls for Congress to overhaul existing law.
Once upon a time, a performing artist signed with a record label (let’s call the artist Jimmy Hendricks, and the label Toe Jam Records). Hendricks had a pretty decent career, touring around the country, but his record didn’t make much of a splash, failing to receive significant airplay or “move units,” in recordbizspeak. Then, in 2010, an up-and-coming hip-hop artist dropped a pitch-shifted guitar lick from Hendrick’s tune “I Enjoy Rock ‘n’ Roll” into his bangin’ new track. The hip-hopper loved what this lick did for his song, but was justifiably worried about being sued for infringement.
Public Knowledge (PK), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and Future of Music Coalition (FMC) commend the Copyright Office for inviting public comments in the matter of remedies for small copyright claims. Providing copyright owners with the ability to enforce small claims is important to ensure the effective functioning of the copyright system. Equally important is the ability of defendants to defend meritorious claims. While a suit in federal district court is expensive, it also provides various procedural safeguards that permit effective presentation of cases and protect the rights of defendants. These safeguards play an important role in copyright cases, which often raise complex issues. Even where a dispute involves small monetary amounts, it is likely to involve complex issues that touch on free expression, privacy, and competition policy.
Therefore, we endorse the Office’s intention to study the issue more carefully before making any recommendations. These comments are intended to assist that preliminary consideration by raising a few initial concerns. First, to the extent that an alternative system to a suit in federal district court is proposed, that alternative must ensure that it does not jeopardize procedural protections available to defendants. Second, the particular design of the alternative system should be informed by empirical evidence regarding the costs and benefits for all parties to the litigation, as well as the public who may be deprived of access to creative expression as a result of a court ruling.
[This post is by FMC legal intern Adam Holofcener]
Ready for your head to explode? Let’s talk copyright termination of transfer!
This is a topic that is incredibly complex but super-important to ensuring that musicians and other creators are able to regain control of their copyrights that they “transferred” to another entity (think labels and publishers) after a certain amount of time. Congress set the period after which these copyrights revert back to their authors, in the 1976 Copyright Act. Unfortunately, the law also includes some unintended head-scratchers. read more
Future of Music Coalition filed these comments with the Copyright Office in their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the “Gap in Termination Provisions” in the Copyright Act.
The Copyright Office released an analysis acknowledging the “gap” in the termination clause of the 1976 Copyright Act, which foreclosed individuals from dissolving grants made before Jan. 1, 1978 of copyrighted works not created until after that date. The comment also applauds the Copyright Office’s proposal to limit their new “gap” closing regulation, that grants will be read from the date of creation of the copyrighted work, to apply only to works that fell in the “gap.”
Future of Music Coalition filed these reply comments with the Copyright Office in their Notice of Public Inquiry on the “termination of transfer” of copyrights.
Under the 35-year reversion terms of the 1976 Copyright Act, copyrights made after Jan. 1, 1978 are eligible to once again become the creator’s property. The comments also address the so called “gap” in the termination clause, in which songs composed under exclusive songwriting aggrements with publishers may fall in between the 56-year termination provisions of the previous 1909 Act and the 35-year terms of its 1976 successor.
Notice of Public Inquiry; Reply Comments: 75 Fed Reg 15390 (3/29/10)
[A footnoted version of this document is available in PDF]
Future of Music Coalition (FMC) is a not-for-profit collaboration between members of the music, technology, public policy and intellectual property law communities. FMC seeks to educate the media, policymakers and the public about issues at the intersection of music, technology, policy and law while bringing together diverse voices in an effort to identify creative solutions to challenges in this space. Our work often concerns copyright issues and creators’ ability to exploit their intellectual property in an open marketplace. read more