How Can You Be Register Of Copyrights If You Don't Even Understand Copyright's Most Basic Purpose?
from the time-for-another-job,-maria dept
Maria Pallante, who’s only been the US Register of Copyrights for a short while, but has worked in the Copyright Office for some time, has apparently decided that she’s going to step up publicly as the copyright-maximalist-in-chief. In two recent talks, she has made it clear that she despises those who fought against SOPA, believes strongly that copyright is the sole way of making money for content creators, and, most disturbing of all, thinks that copyright doesn’t need to serve the best interests of the country, but, instead, the best interests of copyright holders.
She recently gave an interview to the American Bar Association’s “Landslide” publication, which is put out by the “Intellectual Property” Section of the ABA. In showing just how out of touch with the times the ABA remains, there is no link I can share for this story, but in the interview, Pallante is asked about the fact that there is widespread criticism of copyright law being “too restrictive.” Her response is downright scary:
“It is my strong view that exceptions and limitations are just that — they are important but they must be applied narrowly so as not to harm the proprietary rights of the songwriter, book author, or artist. Copyright is for the author first and the nation second.”
That, right there, should be grounds for termination, as she clearly does not understand her job or the purpose of copyright law. First of all, it’s long been shown that it’s the exceptions to copyright law, such as fair use, that help songwriters, authors and artists to create such amazing new works. As we’ve been discussing a lot lately, there is tremendous evidence that greater exceptions really do help those artists. For her to insist that she only wants narrow exceptions suggests that she’s making determinations based on pure blind faith, rather than empirical evidence.
But, much more important is the simple wrongness of that second statement. The Constitution is quite clear about whom copyright is for. It’s for the public, not for the creators.
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
The purpose is to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. The method is creating monopolies for authors and inventors. But the clear, stated (and well recognized) intent and purpose of copyright law is for the nation. The goal is to maximize the overall benefit to the nation by helping the artists in a way that serves the nation. For someone in a position such as the Register of Copyrights to flip that equation on its head is really scary, and suggests she does not belong in that job.
Then, in a recent appearance before the American Association of Publishers, her short talk was like a big wet kiss to copyright maximalism, while attacking those who fought against SOPA. She talks up the wonders of copyright as if it’s the only way to make money in publishing, and praises the Golan decision that said it’s okay for the government to pull works out of the public domain and lock them up under copyright. She also insists that what concerned her most about the fight over SOPA was not the broad overreach of Congress and the MPAA, but rather the fact that the public doesn’t understand copyright law, according to her.
Her job is supposed to be to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. That means understanding what the evidence actually shows will do so. Instead, she seems to have made some clear decisions about what must work — and it’s the same things that the copyright gatekeepers want. The role of the public, it seems, is just to be educated on her view of copyright law, and she fears that the public might influence the debate further beyond SOPA. This is immensely troubling, and raises significant questions about her impartiality in the role. The Copyright Office is somewhat famous for it’s retrograde views on copyright law, but usually they try not to be quite so blatant about it in public.