Rep. Goodlatte Promises 'Consensus' Copyright Reform Proposals Soon

from the this-should-be-interesting dept

Congress has mostly stayed away from any attempt at copyright reform since the great SOPA blackout of 2012, afraid that anything will set off the public again. However, in 2013, Copyright Register Maria Pallante called on Congress to create the "next great copyright act" designed to update copyright for the 21st century. The House Judiciary Committee has been holding hearings and roundtables every few months since then, some of which have been more encouraging than others.

Copyright law is clearly broken and a true fix for the 21st century would be welcome. But what are the chances that Congress would actually do a good job, rather than make it worse? Well, we may soon find out. Yesterday, Rep. Bob Goodlatte put out a statement and a video claiming that they're finally ready to start releasing some proposals:
Goodlatte lists out a bunch of things that have been discussed, and then notes that he'll be focused initially on releasing proposals where he believes there is some "consensus":
In the weeks ahead, we will identify areas where there is a likelihood of potential consensus and circulate outlines of potential reforms in those areas. Then we will convene stakeholders for further work on these potential reforms.

And you have my personal commitment that as the review shifts to more focused work on potential reforms, the process will be transparent and the Committee will continue to ensure that all interested parties have the opportunity to weigh in on issues of concern to them. Our copyright system deserves no less.
The way that's put obviously sounds better than the way things have been done in the past, where the legacy industry basically wrote the bills for Congress, and our elected officials just put their names on it. But I'm still concerned with the framing of this whole thing. Goodlatte's talk continues to falsely suggest that copyright policy is about copyright holders vs. the public:
...it is critical that Congress understand the overall impact of any changes in copyright law before proceeding with formally introduced legislation. It is also clear that neither a solely copyright owner focused bill, nor a copyright user focused bill, could be enacted by Congress today, nor should they be.
But, again, as we've been explaining for years, thinking of copyright in such zero sum terms is the wrong way to go about it. A proper copyright system, focused on "promoting the progress of science" shouldn't put the best interests of either party at risk. These interests should be aligned. The public benefit of copyright should be to encourage creators to create and for that content to spread and be experienced. We should be looking at what kinds of policies best lead to that outcome. Instead, because of past history and the mental framework that the Judiciary Committee has had since the beginning, it seems that they want to set this up as a fight between Hollywood (representing "copyright holders") and the tech industry (which they're using as a weak and misleading proxy for "the public.") The actual public is not involved. Nor are many actual creators.

There are, of course, cynical political reasons for doing this. Congress learned years ago that if you want to get a big pile of donations, the best thing to do is to hint at a bill that would put two large industry in conflict with one another. Then both feel compelled to fund politicians campaign warchests.

But that leads to bad policy. It leads to policy based on the interests of funders and industry, rather than the public. Again, the purpose of copyright law is to benefit the public by creating incentives for content creators. The interests of content creators and the public should (and absolutely could) be aligned in all of this. Let's create systems that encourage the creation and distribution of content, without treating the public as criminals.

Let's hope that's actually what Goodlatte and the Judiciary Committee have in mind, but from the framing he has used so far, I'm concerned that what comes out of this is likely to be something else.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2016 @ 3:43am

    I have a tip for congress; when an industry is asking for draconian laws to prevent people doing something for themselves, or indulging in socially acceptable behaviour, then it is time to tell the business interests to change their business models or go under, and change the law to reflect the social norms.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 27 Apr 2016 @ 4:01am

      Re:

      Oh, come on. These people passed all sorts of outrageous laws. Even going to the point of violating the Constitution. Like 'social norms' will deter anybody. And remember, many things that are very common are still criminalized or have an incredibly hard time getting a green light from the legislative. See marijuana, homosexual rights (including marriage) etc etc etc

      You are right. But I suspect there will be more blood before this gets sorted out.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2016 @ 4:13am

    Abolish Copyright

    Forget trying to "reform" it. Just get rid of it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    psiuuuuu, 27 Apr 2016 @ 4:28am

    alas

    For anything we may think of copyright (or other IP concepts) and how they could be updated and clarified for today and the future - the cynical paragraph gets it correct.

    None of these people give two bits about this stuff at all, other than who is shoving more crap in front of them.

    Anyway - when is Mr. Techdirt going to testify before Congress and use small words to help them understand (or no excuse not to)? :P

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Quiet Lurcker, 27 Apr 2016 @ 5:09am

    No glasses needed here

    There are, of course, cynical political reasons for doing this. Congress learned years ago that if you want to get a big pile of donations, the best thing to do is to hint at a bill that would put two large industry in conflict with one another. Then both feel compelled to fund politicians campaign warchests.


    You've just hit the nail on the head.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2016 @ 5:11am

    The industry 'consensus' is that copyright should last forever minus a day and basically have all the benefits of physical property without the drawbacks.
    If possible without any extra taxes and free policing.

    Thanks but I'd rather keep copyright as it is rather than have it align to the 'consensus'.

    At least under the current system Anne Fran's diary would enter the Public Domain sometime in the 2050's.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2016 @ 5:14am

    If Congress holds true to form, 'consensus' will take the form of highly publicised token 'consultation' with EVERYONE involved on the issue and then arrive at a hideous legislative proposal that only reflects the 'consensus' of the deep-pocketed entertainment industry, who continues to promote the idea that only their views/needs matter on matters related to the intersection of content and technology. Wait for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2016 @ 5:50am

    Mike,

    Where do you stand on small claims court for copyright cases? I'm hearing that's very likely to be introduced.

    Thanks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2016 @ 6:48am

    It's a shame that the Your Children Will Never Love Anything Not Owned By Someone Else Act of 2016 doesn't have a pithy acronym.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    KJ (profile), 27 Apr 2016 @ 6:48am

    60 Minutes Sunday story on Congress telemarketing

    > Then both feel compelled to fund politicians campaign warchests.

    Please tell everyone you know about last Sunday's 60 Minutes story "Are members of Congress becoming telemarketers?" (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-are-members-of-congress-becoming-telemarketers/)

    Very few people know about the percent of time Congress spends calling donors, let alone the time spent with donors at fundraising events and other activities. Even the reporter said she didn't know before investigating for this story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2016 @ 7:31am

    What is that elusive "public interest?" Where should I call to meet them?

    Modern politics is at least four-dimentional:

    - Legality is constantly getting more and more under pressure from "international obligations" to a point where most politicians today have to moderate their expectations after being elected!
    - Ideology is more and more under pressure from "economic realities". You will get lambasted by economic calculations if you propose a policy without balance.
    - Pragmatists are worthless politically! But ideological purists are very naive and will never get their dreams through unless it is accepted from a majority of the existing layers of politicians. Since noone can satisfy all of those interests, politics is a game of pick and choose.
    - Personal freedom and influence are buzzwords, but it is very much in opposition to national security, national economic interests (monopolies are good at retaining work in a non-competitive country) and the paying interests. Elections only happen at most every 4 years but the lobbyists are there every day! Since it is easier to get elected with a good stockpile of money and lobbyists know good contacts to get them, why play the weaker game?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2016 @ 8:08am

    Same old

    "The way that's put obviously sounds better than the way things have been done in the past, where the legacy industry basically wrote the bills for Congress, and our elected officials just put their names on it."

    He says that it stays the same and that the process won't change.
    "Then we will convene stakeholders for further work on these potential reforms"

    Those stakeholders are the legacy industry and they basically will write the bills. Sure it sounds better but that is it. Just because it's now called "working on potential reforms" doesn't change the fact that industry will influence/write the law.
    Last time I checked the public didn't have a lobby group to advocate their interests to politicians so they aren't included in the stakeholders.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Vinquus (profile), 27 Apr 2016 @ 8:19am

    Intellectual Property

    There's a place near us does a really Goodlatte. They should copyright it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2016 @ 8:52am

    It's election season. When it is all over with, there will still be bills to pay for the election. As long as congress doesn't actually do anything beyond make noise about copyright I'll take it as the real reason for this.

    As long as money is flowing into congress, there is no hope that these copyright laws will be anything but more of the same. The copyright industry long ago showed there is never enough to satisfy them. There is no making them happy, merely degrees of dissatisfaction as they will never get all they ask for as they have no limit to what they want.

    Copyright law is broken beyond repair. Doesn't work for anyone but those throwing money at lawmakers. I have little hope if they actually intend to do something that it will come out being anything but a total mess.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whoever, 27 Apr 2016 @ 9:36am

    "Consensus"

    Sure, there will be consensus all right. Consensus amongst the RIAA and the MPAA and their member companies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2016 @ 10:37am

    Copyright Reform Act of 1776

    Why not just go back to the very simple original system that the Founders had? One, and only one, renewable term of 14 years, after that it goes into the public domain. Period. If you forget to file the renewal within 30 days of the expiry notice, the copyright expires.

    Also, it has to be filed by an actual human person, not "Disney Multinational Hydra LLC" or whatever troll law firm they get to do their bidding.

    And it has to retroactively apply. None of this grandfather crap that would basically render the reforms moot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2016 @ 6:33pm

      Re: Copyright Reform Act of 1776

      Why not just go back to the very simple original system that the Founders had?

      Because that's not what the MAFIAA wants.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2016 @ 1:00pm

    Our congresspeople don't have their heads up the asses of the wealthy far enough already? Where does this war on John and Jane Q. Public end? They crossed the line back in the 70's, and I guess there was just no looking back after that. They should be thankful I don't own the copyright on their DNA, a body bag and cremation would definitely be in order.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Skeeter, 27 Apr 2016 @ 1:44pm

    I Doubt It is New

    Just this week, while installing some new Linux software, I encountered a nightmare. It started with being hit with a pop-up (of all things, in Linux?!) for poor Micro-junk's EULA on fonts! Fonts, no less! A standard boiler plate MS-EULA claiming 'it's ours, not yours', as usual. I rejected the EULA, and then spent 2-hours trying to get the rejected program and related PPA out of my system! Oh, did I mention that I already OWN the fonts from as far back as 1988? Yeah, MS thought they would clamp 'our property' on top of my existing fonts that they didn't create. I really don't see 'a new Copyright system' fixing this - I see it turning into just more DCMA and DRM draconian laws to make sure you are illegal, no matter where you turn.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Whatever (profile), 27 Apr 2016 @ 5:56pm

    In another story, congress critters promise legislation just before the election cycle, after which everything on the order sheet will be dropped and a new session started without your "consensus legislation" on the docket.

    Don't fall for the hype. It would take a year or more to get this one done and the current critters only have about 5 more working months. DOA?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Atkray (profile), 27 Apr 2016 @ 7:20pm

    "There are, of course, cynical political reasons for doing this. Congress learned years ago that if you want to get a big pile of donations, the best thing to do is to hint at a bill that would put two large industry in conflict with one another. Then both feel compelled to fund politicians campaign warchests."

    I think the even more compelling/cynical reason for this is to get things rolling now so that come December they can shove this through and get it signed when everyone is "on vacation".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 28 Apr 2016 @ 8:02am

    My prediction

    But what are the chances that Congress would actually do a good job, rather than make it worse?


    Approximately 0.000001%

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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