Copyright Czar Wants To Make A Big Change To Copyright Law

from the didn't-see-this-coming dept

The official Register of Copyrights for the US, Marybeth Peters, has shown a history of always pushing much stricter copyright laws that would, in many ways, clamp down on innovation in the creative space. Often, it's seemed like she didn't really understand the unintended consequences of what she was promoting -- but just wanted to lock down everything as much as possible. That's why it's surprised a ton of people this morning to find out that Peters is suddenly advocating a major change in copyright law, getting rid of the compulsory license for mechanical reproduction rights. There's a lot of open discussion on whether or not this is a good or bad thing -- and the feeling seems to be that it could go both ways. The unintended consequences of such a move aren't entirely clear, but it's generating plenty of discussion. On a first pass look, it sounds like Peters is getting some of it right, and some of it wrong. It is important to overhaul parts of existing copyright law in order to have the law better reflect what the technology allows. However, the proposal today seems like a partial step, rather than a complete look at solving issues across the board. That means that the changes seem likely to just shift the problems elsewhere, rather than really solve them. However, considering that no one was really discussing changing copyright law at all, it seems like a good thing that the door has been opened.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2005 @ 3:50pm

    Re: what does this mean?

    US copyright law is a byzantine patchwork of rules, regulations, and exceptions that vary widely and capriciously depending upon the category that the work falls under. AFAIK, compulsory licensing only applies to the making and distribution of audio recordings.

    If I write book or produce a video, I can grant or deny a license to reproduce (publish) the book as I please for the duration of the copyright. If I write a song or compose a symphony, I only have the right to determine if, and when, and by whom it is first recorded. After that initial publication, I cannot deny anyone the right to record the song. US law compels me to license the song at a maximum statutory rate (per copy) to everyone who asks. You might negotiate directly with me for a lower rate, or you might go through the Harry Fox Agency whom I have authorized to collect the statutory rate on my behalf.

    Now, let's say that you have produced a CD, and paid me the licensing fees. No one else may reproduce that specific recording without a license from you, and if they do, they also must pay me per song, per copy as well. Compulsory licensing applies to my songs, but not to the specific recording. You may deny anyone the right to reproduce the recording.

    If the band that performed on the CD decides to "take the show on the road" then someone (the band, or the promoter, or the venue) must pay me royalties. The band or promoter may negotiate directly with me or may check with one of the songwriter/composer societies (BMI, ASCAP or SESAC) to see if I have authorized one of them to handle the performance rights for the song.

    If someone goes through BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC, then he can't just license my song, he has to license the entire catalog of songs for an annual fee which itself is determined by a complicated list of criteria which is different for each organization.

    Want to broadcast one of the bands concerts? More licensing; more complications. Want to broadcast the CD? Different rules again.

    Like I said, byzantine. It is the inevitable outcome of trying to force a square peg into a round hole: Intellectual "property" is not a natural concept.

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