House Judiciary Committee Sets Up First Hearing On Copyright Reform

from the and-away-we-go dept

With comprehensive copyright reform back on the table in the US, and with Rep. Bob Goodlatte looking to lead the process, he’s hosting the first House Judiciary Committee hearings on the matter, with the initial focus focused on finding consensus. They’re starting with five witnesses, all of whom participated in the Copyright Principles Project, which we wrote about a few years ago when it came out. At the time, we wondered if anyone would pay attention to it, so it’s actually great to see that it’s front and center in this discussion.

That document — which was put together by a wide variety of folks from different backgrounds — looked at 25 possible areas for reform. All five witnesses participated in the process:

  • Jon Baumgarten, retired Proskauer Rose attorney and former General Counsel of the U.S. Copyright Office (noted litigator on copyright matters including music and movie issues)
  • Laura Gasaway, Professor, University of North Carolina Law School and co-chair of the Section 108 Study Group (libraries)
  • Daniel Gervais, Director, Vanderbilt Law School Intellectual Property Program (international issues)
  • Pam Samuelson, Professor, University of California at Berkeley Law School (convenor of the CPP and copyright law scholar)
  • Jule Sigall, Assistant General Counsel for Copyright, Microsoft and former Associate Register for Policy and International Affairs of the U.S. Copyright Office (tech)

Having Samuelson on the list is the key one, as she was the driving force behind the project and is one of, if not the most, knowledgeable folks concerning copyright issues around. I recognize that any copyright reform process could go seriously off the rails once certain lobbyists go crazy over it, but I’m going to take an optimistic approach here and hope for the best. Starting from this position with the folks who were involved in this process is a good place to start, though we’ll see where it goes from here.

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Comments on “House Judiciary Committee Sets Up First Hearing On Copyright Reform”

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TheLastCzarnian (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not holding my breath...

It will be killed.


Because it would make society as a whole better, at the expense of the media moguls. And here in the US, more is always better, right? So pretty soon copyright would be cut past the bone, and the fat cats might have to work, or at least revise their business models.
They know this, and will kill anything that even starts to relax copyright.
It’s going to take a much larger and stronger movement to really get anything done.
So hunker down, CYA, and expect a lot of failures before we finally succeed.

out_of_the_blue says:

Nothing to disagree with here! -- Because nothing here.

After fifteen years, Mike has NO position on copyright reform that he’ll state.

How do you fanboys even know that Mike isn’t “seriously off the rails” already? Born into the 1% and product of Ivy League school, it’s a safe bet that Mike doesn’t stray far from corporatist orthodoxy rather than public interest. You guys just project onto Mike what you’d like, but he’s apparently never promoted ANY of what you believe!

And if you think that’s ad hom — no, it’s facts and reasonable conjecture from them.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Nothing to disagree with here! -- Because nothing here.

“Mike has NO position on copyright reform that he’ll state”

As you say, he is a economist, not a lawyer. He states broad positions, with no details because it isn’t his field. A lawyer or congressman would create better specific language then Mike would. That said, what is a position of copyright if not these:

Treating fair use as a right rather than an ‘exception’? Or at least give teeth to those utilizing fair use so as to prevent copyright censorship? (you have to dig some, but the stories are there

Providing clear rights for the disabled to format shift content and/or use assistive technologies so they can access information and culture?

How about lowering copyright terms so as to expand the public domain? (He expressly states his displeasure with the length of copyright) (many articles, some by Mike, expressing support of the public domain and its importance)

Providing for orphan works in the digital age?
(I know there was a good article about this recently, but I can’t find it quickly)

Mike has no enhanced copyright stance. He believes copyright has gone beyond its intent and value to society, and is now hurting culture (though he rags more on patents then Copyright). So reform is now about curtailing the abuses of copyright so culture is enhanced, not expanding copyright itself.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Nothing to disagree with here! -- Because nothing here.

channeling out_of_the_blue

What is this? An empty comment? It’s a giant white rectangle! You haven’t showed me any of Mike’s positions! No links or anything, not even your name! Ack, it’s a blank name! You don’t exist, this comment never happened.

Everyone here is k-ra-zy!

channeling finished

Travicane says:

Re: Nothing to disagree with here! -- Because nothing here.

No! This is ad hom:

More inane drivel from an individual/shill with a second rate mind.
He appears to view incompetent trolling on this site as his only hope to garner the attention he seems to so desperately need.

If he had any competence or ambition, he would have set up his own blog in competition with Tech Dirt.

Not likely to happen, since he appears to lack; the intellectual, writing, reasoning, ability to honestly connect with others, and fundamental core human competencies exhibited by the founder of TechDirt.

Since he is too trivial or scared to compete out front under his own banner, he has chosen to insert himself as a form of noxious vermin on the TechDirt web site.
If you want a real-life Avatar for “out_of_the_blue”, try this kind of mindless, destructive slug now invading the US:

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Nothing to disagree with here! -- Because nothing here.

That’s not an ad-hom, that’s just an accurate description.

Ad-hom: out_of_the_blue is a (f.ex) vegan, and vegans know nothing about copyright!

Not ad-hom: out_of_the_blue’s comments are completely idiotic and deluded, and show that he’s a troll or insane, and demonstrate that he knows nothing about copyright.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Where’s the representation of people who will actually consider all possibilities? I don’t see anyone on that list who would argue that the whole concept ought to be scrapped. Instead, I see a bunch of people who will make arguments for why their job needs to stay. Changed? Sure, but none of them will be willing to accept that maybe it’s not necessary anymore (if it ever was).

Violated (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It is clear from your posting your intentions.

“all possibilities” As in not the one they want to present?
“scrapped” Because you don’t like their opinion?
“their job”? They already have jobs that do not change if they win or lose where they are not even asking for Government funding.
“not necessary”? The public is no longer blind and millions of them are angry. These people are here to explain why they are angry so why not just listen?

I would hope the most logical arguments would win but does not the copyright power elite hold large lobbying funds to stop them through lawful corruption?

Still the Copyright Cartels may want to take a back seat on this one knowing their extremist view has been pushing too hard and where a little rebalance will make everyone involved happier. I am doubtful they will call off the MAFIAA but they may want to save their funds to the bigger fights.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m not sure I follow what you are saying. I’d prefer copyright law to be scrapped. None of these people will offer reasons for why it ought to be scrapped. They all have jobs that rely on copyright existing in some form or another. While some of their arguments might include why people are angry, none of their arguments will actually look at the whole of the system.

If you aren’t willing to look at reasons for scrapping the whole copyright system, then you really aren’t looking at the right thing. You have to look at all of the data and question the reason for it’s existence to begin with. I fully concede that others may come to different conclusions than me. I’m just saying that if they aren’t even willing to look at the core, then anything else is just window dressing to keep their jobs while placating the populace.

Anonymous Coward says:

Copyright seizures

One area that urgently needs reform is the in rem seizures of domain names.

I just ran across this paper, which ought to remind us of some of the issues that Techdirt has covered.

?Has the Quest to Quelch Piracy Gone Too Far?: How the Government is Misstating the Law to Take Down Linking Websites? by Freddi Mack (University of Miami – University of Miami Law Review), January 28, 2013


Recently, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has been seizing domain names as part of its ?Operation: In Our Sites? project to combat online piracy. The procedure allows seizure based on a warrant asserting probable cause that copyright infringement is facilitated on these sites. The sites may be administratively forfeited if the domain owner doesn?t contest the seizure. If the domain owner does contest the seizure, the government must file a judicial forfeiture action. Recently, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren has proposed a reevaluation of the procedures used in seizing domain names.

While the First Amendment and Due Process implications of civil forfeiture procedures have been thoroughly debated, the specific topic this paper addresses is whether the government can sufficiently allege a cause of action justifying forfeiture of domain names of linking websites under the copyright infringement statutes, 17 U.S.C. ? 506 and 18 U.S.C. ? 2319. Particularly, this paper looks at the case of Rojadirecta?.??.?.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Copyright seizures

Megaupload wasn’t even notified of its domain seizure nor was it given the oppotunity to contest.

You’re confusing seizure and forfeiture I believe. All of the seizures happen without notification.

It’s only after that, if you follow a particular process, you can protest the forfeiture process. Seizure is supposed to be temporary, forfeiture is permanent.

So, in Dajaz1, they were seized with no notification and then the process was delayed when Dajaz1 sought the return of the domain. With Rojadirecta, the government actually filed for forfeiture after Roja first sued the government over the seizure.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Someone put the files about Prenda before them and ask why that was possible and how will they fix it.

Rather than deal with what-ifs and well its possible here is a concrete example of how fucked up copyright is today, how many people need to be screwed over in this manner before its worth noting that the real stakeholder in copyright is getting fucked and that needs to stop now?

Anonymous Coward says:

It seems to me I remember that DOJ/ICE had one year to make a case for court or was supposed to be required to return the seized property.

All of that pretty much was thrown out the window with DOJ/ICE claiming those with seized properties must got to court to get them returned. The whole idea seemed to be that DOJ/ICE felt it too much trouble to follow what parts of the law it didn’t like, just like the serving process to Megaupload.

These people are inventing what they want the law to say, they are not enforcing the law for that purpose. There is a huge difference in the two.

Violated (profile) says:

Slappy Happy

As I have been involved in the fight against zealous monopoly market control via exclusive copyright since 1997 then I am ecstatic to read such news.

Back over a decade ago even seeing lawmakers and politicians undertake such a discussion was only an impossible pipe dream that no one could imagine. We could only help people to achieve their fair use entertainment desires while being very critical of the market structure that existed.

That was the seed from an even older seed that helped to shape the situation that we have now in terms file-sharing, news, political action and even religion. The countless thousands of people who work daily should be proud of themselves for simply helping others.

As I can see the big picture then now is not the time to see huge changes in copyright law when odds are that political lobbying will stamp out our desires. Now is only the time to take this amazing step to have politicians listen to our rational greed-free demands. The change has begun and some will indeed listen and understand when we have no desire to harm content creation only to… free the market.

Look at what we have achieved so far when hundreds of millions of people knowingly defy unjust laws. We in our anger have killed SOPA and PIPA while putting ACTA in a coma. Around 13 million people stopped SOPA as much of the Internet blacked out. Then 200,000 people did indeed march against ACTA in Europe. Wow those furious people left their keyboards behind to take down that near unstoppable trade agreement that the Commission tried to sneak into Europe as a ‘fish’.

As I said I am ecstatic when I can see that wherever work is needed that people do step up and take their place. We need to change the World and I won’t lie to you when this is a massive change still falling close to impossible but we can change the world and all we need to do is to take our place and to be there at the right time.

Be happy, new ground has been broken, where the MAFIAA are running scared. Keep pushing, let them run.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

wont be anyone from the public interest groups invited

Look, if you’ve been seriously involved on these issues for any length of time, then you know who Pamela Samuelson is.

Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), a Contributing Editor of Communications of the ACM?.?.?. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and of the Open Source Applications Foundation, as well as a member of the Advisory Board for the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Her EFF bio blurb adds:

She is a member of ?.?.?. the Board of Directors for the Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

I don’t always agree with her, anymore than I always agree with the EFF, or EPIC, or the ACLU. Sometimes I have big disagreements with all of those organizations. But she absolutely deserves a little respect, and you should who she is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Direct Link to Hearing Page

Here’s a direct link to the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet
webpage for the hearing

Hearing Information

Subject: A Case Study for Consensus Building: The Copyright Principles Project

Thursday 5/16/2013 – 2:00 p.m.

The witness list doesn’t seem to be filled in yet, so there’s no PDFs for their written testimony yet… and there’s no button for the webcast yet… but I expect that the committee staff will add those elements to the page as we get closer to the hearing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Who's gonna get left out?: Abolitionists

Who’s going to get left out of the hearings?

I’ll name one group right now. The copyright abolitionists are not going to be invited. That means, for those of you who think that copyright is just too irredeemably messed-up to save, you’re going to have to make your voices heard in other ways.

Fortunately, ABOLISH COPYRIGHT is short enough to fit on a picket sign.


Standard theory for sucessful insurgency suggests that we need to engineer a split between the ?moderate reformers? and the ?radical abolitionists?. That enables teh establishment to negotiate with the moderates, while condemning the radicals. The theory goes on to suggest that this split must ?in a sense? be genuine, to avoid the establishments’ predictable claim that the moderates are just radicals in disguise, or at least colluding with the radicals.

In this case, though, I suggest that we throw the standard theory out the window. I don’t really see a good reason why ?moderate reformers? should be afraid to acknowledge that their views extend through a range all the way to ?radical abolition?.

Anonymous Coward says:

Who else may get left out?: Anti-globalists

The Copyright Principles Project, in section 7 of their ?Guiding Principles? avers:

7. Copyright law should recognize that the system in which creative activity occurs and in which creative works are circulated is increasingly global

7.1. The United States should develop its copyright law in a manner that respects the global system in which creative activity occurs.

7.2. The United States should seek to ensure that international law leaves room to allow domestic laws to fully comport with these principles.

That leaves out the voices of those who believe that the international copyright regime, created through the Berne Convention framework, and through other internationlist instruments is fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution of the United States of America, and its guarantees of free speech and a free press.

I, myself, have called for repeal of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. I believe that repeal is the best way for our nation to get out of the mess that Justice Ginsburg has created in Eldred.

But I have (mostly) stopped short of calling for the withdrawal and repudiation of the Berne Convention by the United States.

Yet, I am not convinced that adherence to the Berne Convention can be reconciled with our Constitution, and traditions. We do need to put our elected representatives on the hotspot. We should ask them, flat out, if it comes down to it, which do you support ? our Constitution? or the Berne Convention?

Greevar (profile) says:

Congress shall make no law...

“…respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I think, just on this basis, the copyright act is in violation of the constitution (No Anonymous Shills, Article 1 Section 8 doesn’t make it universally legal, it only grants the power so long as it promotes the progress and the complete bankruptcy of the public domain clearly demonstrates its failure to promote the progress). The courts have ruled “No law, means no law.” So I don’t see how a law that is censorship of speech at its very core is even allowable given the first amendment and court cases upholding that standard. But I guess we Americans are just fine and dandy with the idea of giving up civil liberties when it comes to our addiction to money and ownership.

How do I know it’s censorship of speech? Any time you express an idea, it’s speech. Art of every kind expresses ideas. If you don’t believe me, go out and find an image, audio, video, game, or text and try to tell me that it didn’t put any ideas in your head. There’s no media out there that doesn’t disseminate information to the viewer and that means that it is speech by definition. And by supporting copyright of any kind, you support the idea that some people can have the right to say things that others cannot. This is no different than prohibiting people from being allowed to speak dissent against their government.

Going against copyright triggers the most base emotional reaction because copyright has been so fundamentally tied to the concept of property, even those that have no personal stake in copyright will defend it to their last, because they don’t want their perception of property rights shattered. So much so, that speaking against copyright is a personal insult to anyone that has an attachment to their concept of property. It’s the same reaction you get when an atheist denies the existence of gods. It’s a deep personal and emotional issue. If you broach that topic, be prepared for an emotionally charged and irrational assault from those that have so strongly internalized the concept.

So, I have to ask. Do we really want to abridge our freedom of speech so that corporations can say things that we are prohibited from? Do we want them to have speech that we don’t? They don’t deserve it. Speech should be free and open to everyone. It’s our natural right to communicate with others in any way we choose and corporate profits should never be at the center of discussion when justifying the violation of that right is brought up. Freedom of speech is only to be limited in the sense that exercising it doesn’t infringe on the civil rights of others. I have to say that copyright is fundamentally wrong and it’s a violation of my, yours, and every other American’s natural rights to allow it to exist.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: Congress shall make no law...

Yes it does violate my right to speech. It’s disturbing that you can say that and believe it. You don’t have an exclusive right to “your” speech and neither do I have one to “my” speech. I can reuse any other person’s speech any way I like, because that’s how speech works. That’s my human right. Any being that has the capacity to communicate has that right.

special-interesting (profile) says:

Why is the House Judiciary Committee involved with copyright reform? From the majority of these ‘witnesses’ the only consensus will be not in favor of cultural and public domain expansions. The unnecessary legal constraints upon the daily lives of ordinary citizens using normal ordinary appliances and or computers and or cell phones and or cameras (converging technologies?) ARE the problem.

These very copyright laws have intruded upon everyday, every hour, lives in ways the Bill/Act sponsor’s could/would/might never realize. It seems that every web page is a potential source for accusations based on downloading a picture or video clip.

Worse is the monitoring of usage further eroding Privacy Rights. The default method of viewing a YouTube clip is that whenever one wanted to watch a clip they had to access the site. Digging in the web browser catch for a file transfer is classic but that would be prohibited if most firms could find a way to force/cough-up a few revenue dollars from the typical site user.

Witness #1 Jon Baumgarten; Might probably want to appear impartial while framing ‘cultural arresting’ law/penalties/fines/taxes on the entire body of copyrighted material. This witness is most likely to be a drain on the various cultures of society.

Witness #2 Laura N. Gasaway?; Board member of the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). A big broker of licenses. Great! Another industry insider to tell us how we need less culture and more loss to Public Domain Rights. Possibly in a direct but biased way.

Witness #3; Daniel Gervais. Director of international relations at CCC, head of the Copyright Projects section of the WIPO, a panelist (domain name) at the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center. This person seems more like a hired copyright corporate gunslinger than anyone who would explain how culture, innovation and technological advancement is stunted by current copyright law.

Witness #4; Pam Samuelson; interestingly critical of the role of copyright and economics and actually has some grasp of the cultural innovation of Public Domain Rights. This person is outnumbered 4:1. Possibly should be heading the entire committee. Someone with real world experience of the cultural damage current copyright law entails.

Witness # 5;Jule Sigall; Info in Mike’s article is better. How can a likely aggressive copyright expansion goaled firm’s ex employees attitude differ from whom their future pension/retirement-income depends? Expecting a pro MS

Prediction. Few good things will come out of this committee. When the chorus is full of monkeys how can we get anything but squeaks and grunts?

What kind of ‘witnesses’ are these? In no way do they represent the people who will be affected by the outcome of this deliberation. Where are the people who want to sing/share Happy Birthday or harmless karaoke at their party of 100 friends?

Where are the ‘witnesses’ to speak up about trying to share a book to several of their kids before they die? Or rewrite that same book using significant portions of the old?

Where are the ‘witnesses’ to explain the disappointment and loss of culture when they cannot perform a Monty Python skit at the school play?

Where are the exposed and hurt victims of the shameful area of copyright industry’s ?copyporn extortion?? The destroyed families whose lives were torn apart by some almost random layer threat and huge settlement payment.

Where are the victims of web site seizures that was done with no warning and destroyed the culture surrounding those sites.

Where are the artists and writer victims where they had derivative works denied or suppressed by current eternal copyright?

Where is the average citizen represented in this group of people thats likely highly tilted toward copyright expansion and domination over culture and not the reverse where society and culture shape law. Law over culture rather than culture over law is not any sort of democratic rule.

With such poor representation all we can do is sit on the sidelines and twiddle thumbs. Speculation is the best anyone can do. Its a bad position to be in that the only thing left is hope.


Just because Pam Samuelson will be sitting around a table with the other 4 likely copyright expansionists it would be nice to listen in. The legitimate cultural, real world based arguments from Pam countered by the protectionist tinted whining about potentially loosing their eternal copyright monopoly would be fun?

AC and Greevar; pointed out the obvious conflict between the Bern Convention and American Constitutional values. There are/have-been several treaties that try to outline and define ‘Intellectual Property’ but fail to further expand the Intellectual parts of Fair Use Rights.

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