Bob Goodlatte Calls For Copyright Reform, Leaves Specifics To The Imagination

from the at-least-we-agree-it's-broken dept

In a press release issued today, Rep. Bob Goodlatte made a call for comprehensive copyright reform and announced series of hearings on copyright before the House Judiciary Committee. Of course, this isn’t the first indication that Congress is interested in copyright reform — they heard Maria Pallante’s testimony, which addressed many of the key issues involved, and was a mixed bag of good and bad ideas.

One thing the two have in common is a lack of specificity. Goodlatte is a friend of Hollywood and played a big role in SOPA during its conception, so it’s pretty much guaranteed that a lot of his ideas for reform won’t be the kind of reform we actually need — but for now, he’s avoiding saying much. Most of the press release is dedicated to discussing the history of copyright reform and attempting to establish his own credentials. Only one paragraph offers any suggestion as to what Goodlatte thinks copyright reform might consist of:

There is little doubt that our copyright system faces new challenges today. The Internet has enabled copyright owners to make available their works to consumers around the world, but has also enabled others to do so without any compensation for copyright owners. Efforts to digitize our history so that all have access to it face questions about copyright ownership by those who are hard, if not impossible, to locate. There are concerns about statutory license and damage mechanisms. Federal judges are forced to make decisions using laws that are difficult to apply today. Even the Copyright Office itself faces challenges in meeting the growing needs of its customers – the American public.

Well, right off the bat we have concerns about piracy (while avoiding using the word), so we know where his priorities are. The rest of the things he lists — orphaned works, compulsory licenses and royalty rates, statutory damages, unclear legal definitions — are indeed some of the key parts of copyright law that need fixing, but that doesn’t mean he has the right ideas about how to fix them. When it comes to things like statutory royalties and damages, both sides often think they are broken — the question is whether they are too high or too low. When it comes to clearing up legal definitions of things like fair use and contributory infringement, one small detail could swing the needle wildly in either direction.

Maybe it’s a good thing that Goodlatte is avoiding getting into specifics, and instead launching hearings — but based on his past opinions and some of the implications of the press release, there’s plenty of reason to wonder just how open and balanced these hearings will be. Will they include representatives of the public, or just industry lobbyists like so many copyright discussions in the past? And will they be seeking to reform copyright in a way that benefits the public, as it is supposed to, or just trying to “stop piracy”?

Goodlatte has surprised us a little bit in the past. Here’s hoping he surprises us again — but I’m not holding my breath.

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Comments on “Bob Goodlatte Calls For Copyright Reform, Leaves Specifics To The Imagination”

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tomxp411 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

If you think slavery = Copyright, then you’re more messed up than I thought.

I’m just tired of some anonytroll screaming “BAN COPYRIGHT” on every single post in here that relates to Copyright law.

There are more productive conversations than that, especially when most people agree that Copyright is both desirable and necessary.

RadialSkid (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I disagree strongly. I’m not necessarily a copyright abolitionist, but I find more merit in that point of view than in maintaining the status quo, and MUCH more than in expanding it.

Furthermore, a more radical push against copyright in general can always lead to compromise (ie, shortened terms or the elimination of “copyright on creation”).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“I’m just tired of some anonytroll screaming “BAN COPYRIGHT” on every single post in here that relates to Copyright law.”

and I’m tired of stupid shills calling to maintain and expand it because it benefits them and the worthless middlemen but not the public or the artists. BAN IT!!!!

cpt kangarooski says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Even Congress cannot abolish IP law had they desired due to the Berne Convention.

Sure they can. Treaties don’t limit what Congress can do; only the federal constitution can do that. Hell, US copyright law violates Berne right now, and Congress isn’t doing a damn thing about it.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Treaties don’t limit what Congress can do; only the federal constitution can do that.

If I remember right, treaties actually do supersede statute and are supposed to be binding on Congress. This only matters if Congress cares or there’s a court challenge with a judge who actually gives a damn. Either way though, we can always pull out of Berne.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

They will give that excuse but if we put enough pressure on them they will do it anyways. We should force them, against their will. They could if they want to but the only reason they won’t do it is not due to any moral principles regarding meeting their obligation, it’s due to their self interest in getting campaign contributions and revolving door favors.

Anonymous Coward says:

it’s reasonably safe to say his ideas wont be to do what they should and ‘promote the sciences and arts’ or give anything to the public, who, in fact, should have everything and give a little to those that want copyrights for their works! if he had any intention of saying or doing anything other than pleasing his sponsors, the entertainment industries, he would be going down the same path as Kahana. i would hazard a guess and say the crap that Pallante came out with will be helped along by Goodlatte. as for ‘Will they include representatives of the public’, dont be so fucking ridiculous!! do what should be done and give the other side (the public) a chance to get copyright sorted out properly and fairly with some sensible suggestions? not a chance in hell! Congress are too old for the job of understanding what is needed but they wont give in without a fight! they will carry on regardless, and keep things as a complete screw up for as long as possible!!

out_of_the_blue says:

NOW'S your chance, Mike! Leap into the vacuum:

“Leaves Specifics To The Imagination … One thing the two have in common is a lack of specificity. … ? but for now, he’s avoiding saying much.” — Oh, wait. That also describes Masnick’s results from 15 years of thinking on the topic, he too says it’s broken but has no idea how to fix it.

And all this minion has is a false dichotomy: ‘And will they be seeking to reform copyright in a way that benefits the public, as it is supposed to, or just trying to “stop piracy”?’

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: NOW'S your chance, Mike! Leap into the vacuum:

95+ years is broken and fixing it would consist of either shortening it substantially or, IMO, just abolishing IP altogether.

We may not have an idea of fixing it to your personal satisfaction in your personal interests but we have an idea of how to fix it for the public interest. Abolish it.

Anonymous Howard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 NOW'S your chance, Mike! Leap into the vacuum:

Trolls reminds me of a joke:

A train derails in the woods and the only survivor is the train driver. They ask him about the accident:
– Why did the train derail?
– Well, I saw a jew walking on the rails..
– What?! Why didn’t you ran him over?? Hundreds died..
– I tried! But he ran into the forest!

S. T. Stone says:

Re: NOW'S your chance, Mike! Leap into the vacuum:

he too says it’s broken but has no idea how to fix it

Funny thing about that: nobody has any real, tangible, provable ideas on how to fix copyright. Everyone from Mr. Masnick and the Techdirt Crew to regular jackoffs such as myself might have opinions on how to fix copyright, and some of them might even sound sensible, but we can?t prove one way or the other than our ideas could fix the massive problems with copyright.

That also assumes any idea, whether a singular major idea or a combination of smaller ideas, can somehow ?fix? copyright as it stands today. We have a system that criminalizes people for doing what technology allows them to do, makes it possible for a work to stay out of the public domain for seventy years after its creator dies, and has no real teeth in regards to punishing those who use the system to send fradulent copyright takedowns or use copyright to silence perfectly legal speech. A ?quick fix? would patch problems, but how long would those patches last, and how effective would lawmakers make those patches?

When you can come up with a definitive way to salvage a workable copyright law that both allows creators to protect their works and respects the original purpose of copyright without allowing the major media conglomerates to control all of culture due to their massive bankrolls and legion of lawyers, feel free to lay it on us in detail.

Until then, don’t whine about ?lack of specificity? in the opinions and ideas presented here on Techdirt, ?kay?

a false dichotomy

Except?yeah, it?s not. The major media companies would love to reform copyright in a way that makes it easier for them to stop piracy, and such reforms would likely do more for that purpose than it would do for benefitting the public interest. Feel free to offer any evidence to the contrary, though; I?d love to see the MPAA or RIAA actually say they have the public interest in mind and mean it.

Violated (profile) says:


I do welcome Congress to open debate on Copyright matters when getting the ball of change rolling is what we most need instead of all these shady back-room secretive agreements.

Little can be worse than it is already if you want TPP(A) as one dirty example. Sure the copyright side would fight for changes they want but that is fair even if not by much.

Keep in mind they simply cannot ignore the public these days unless they want millions contacting them in protest and hundreds of thousands out on the street protesting. We are the destroyers of SOPA and PIPA where ACTA is also fatally wounded.

So if the House wants open debate then face the fact that we are armed, ready and able to put on a damned good show. Our concerns about copyright law are already being heard and that is a good thing.

tywebb (profile) says:

Yeah, man. Fuck those greedy copyright holders. We should totally abolish copyright. I’m sure some disruptive innovative type can raise $200 mil on kickstarter to make the next Dark Knight. And if we crowd source songwriting to the Internet masses, we’ll certainly get some quality shit. Right? And don’t forget about those who are willing to work for the prospect of selling an occasional T-shirt. That will pay the bills and keep creators motivated. Fact: under the current “broken” copyright regime, you have access to more content than ever (spare me your grumbling about how you can’t buy an a la carte subscription for HBO to watch Game of Thrones). Doing away with “gate keepers” and “legacy business models” sounds great up until the point where you actually succeed and all you’re left with to watch is videos of water skiing squirrels on UGC sites. Be careful what you wish for.

Anonymous Coward says:

I would welcome copyright reform based on independant, unbiased analysis from a trustworthy organization. The Government Accountability Office, for example.

Of course, the cynic in me expects copyright “reform” based on studies conducted by the MPAA and/or RIAA (complete with $10 trillion being lost to piracy every year), and yet another round of laws allowing large (campaign contributing) companies to sue small companies into oblivion.

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