Surprise: Register Of Copyrights Expected To Call For Reduction In Copyright Term
from the legal-scrum-about-to-begin dept
For a long time now, the idea of an overhaul of copyright law in the US has mostly been seen as a pipedream. However, it appears that the Register of Copyright, Maria Pallante, may actually be angling for a major bit of copyright reform. Coming up next Wednesday, she’s going to be testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on her supposed “Call for Updates to U.S. Copyright Law.” Apparently, on March 4th, she gave a talk at Columbia University which has remained amazingly under the radar until now, in which she proposed a long list of possible copyright reforms, which are likely to headline the hearings next week. It’s fairly impressive, given how much attention copyright law has been getting lately, that she could present a surprising call for massive changes to the law, and not have a single person report on it immediately after the event ended. However, that is the case.
Having spoken to a few people who were either there or who spoke to people who were there, it appears that Pallante is proposing changes touching on nearly every part of copyright law, and as you might expect, it’s a very mixed bag, though I’ll withhold final judgment until we see the full details. However, the big one would be a change in copyright term length, to effectively “roll back” the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act with one caveat. That is, she’s proposing switching us back to a life plus fifty year copyright, but with the ability to renew for that additional 20 years for the tiny percentage of works that makes sense for. While, in the grand scheme of things, life + 50 is still ridiculously too long for copyright, this would be the first major reduction in copyright terms in the history of the US. That’s notable.
There are a number of other issues that she apparently is suggesting, including expanding collective licensing, “reforming” the DMCA exemptions process that has generated so much controversy lately over phone unlocking, a change to the DMCA’s safe harbors, some sort of effort around dealing with the orphan works issue (something the Copyright Office has been trying for for a while), and a “review” of statutory damages. This could get very interesting — though it’s unclear if it will be interesting in a good way or bad way. Once you open up the law, you have to realize that things could go in either direction. At the very least, a lot of lobbyists on all sides of copyright are about to be very busy for quite some time.
As we get more details, we’ll be writing more about this, I’m sure. And, of course, we’ll do our best to cover the hearing on Wednesday.