3 Count: Copyright Reform

A proposal and a bill walk into Congress...

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1: Congressional Panel Calls for Independent Copyright Office

First off today, Peggy McGlone at The Washington Post reports that The House Judiciary has published its first proposed copyright reforms, which center around the U.S. Copyright Office and aim to make it an independent office under the legislative branch.

Since 2013 the committee has been holding hearings on potential copyright reforms. The hearings, which only recently concluded, were a sweeping look at copyright and examined all areas of the law. One of the areas they look at closely was whether the U.S. Copyright Office, which is currently under the Library of Congress, needed to become independent.

The board has made it clear that it does feel as such, saying it needs to become independent and take greater control over its technology and budget as well as be able to advise Congress more directly. The proposal comes after the previous Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante, was removed suddenly from her job by the newly-appointed Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden.

2: Copyright Small Claims Mechanism Proposed

Next up today, John Eggerton at Broadcasting & Cable reports that, on the same day the House Judiciary Committee was making its aforementioned proposals, Representative Judy Chu and Lamar Smith proposed the Fairness for American Small Creators Act, which would create a Copyright Claims Board to hear smaller claims of copyright infringement.

The aim of the board is to create a more streamlined process for handling copyright disputes. It would be able to hear cases worth up to $15,000 per infringement or $30,000 total. The board would operate almost entirely over the internet, reducing the need for travel and would be more approachable to pro se parties, meaning parties that wish to represent themselves.

Participation in the board would be voluntary, meaning that potential defendants could opt out and force the plaintiff to file a suit in federal court. However, the bill hopes that most defendants would agree to participate in the process due to the lower costs and damages, making it a more efficient and effective way of dealing with low value infringements.

3: Appeals Court Reviews The Turtles’ Royalties Dispute With Pandora

Finally today, Ashley Cullins at The Hollywood Reporter Esquire reports that Flo & Eddie of The Turtles are having their day before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in their case against the internet radio service Pandora.

Flo & Eddie have sued Pandora for playing their songs without paying royalties on the sound recordings. In the U.S., pre-1972 sound recordings are not covered under federal copyright law but instead under state common law. As such, there’s been much legal debate on the subject of what royalties are owed for playing them online. A similar case against SiriusXM was recently settled.

Pandora had sought to have the lawsuit dismissed under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, which is designed to prevent the use of lawsuits to stifle free speech. However, the lower court ruled that, while the matter is eligible for a SLAPP motion, that Flo & Eddie demonstrated a high enough likelihood of success to avoid the early dismissal. Pandora then appealed that decision to the 9th Circuit, saying that California law allows them to play the music but Flo & Eddie claim that the law doesn’t apply to sound recordings and, even if it does, selling the songs does not constitute publishing as described in the code.


That’s it for the three count today. We will be back tomorrow with three more copyright links. If you have a link that you want to suggest a link for the column or have any proposals to make it better. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I hope to hear from you.

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