WASHINGTON D.C. – On October 20th, The Progress & Freedom Foundation gathered pertinent U.S. House and Senate staff to discuss and preview upcoming priorities for updating copyright laws. With copyright legislation concerning various issues still pending for the next Congress, PFF is releasing a transcript of the October 20th event, "Copyright ‘Modernization’: What is the Agenda on Capitol Hill?"
The panel, moderated by PFF Senior Fellow and Vice President of Communications & External Affairs Patrick Ross, featured perspectives from both the House and Senate subcommittees on intellectual property and from both political parties. Participants included David Jones, Counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property; Joe Keeley, Counsel for the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property; and Amy Levine, Legislative Counsel for Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), co-chairman of the House Internet Caucus. Ross began the discussion by outlining current issues such as orphan works, licensing regimes for new distribution models, discrepancies between licenses applied to media platforms with multiple functions, lack of consistency for license rate setting, broadcast flag, and compatibility issues with digital and analog content.
Joe Keeley presented an overview of issues dealt with in the 109th Congress by the House Subcommittee. In addition to orphan works and music licensing reform, Keeley mentioned some broader intellectual property issues. "The committee has obviously looked at Department of Justice activity in the area, both in enforcement and education. I don't doubt that will continue going forward," he explained. "The committee has looked at peer-to-peer piracy, university roles, international issues, and all of MP3 issues, regarding ongoing ways to protect American intellectual property. Again, I don’t expect that to really change going forward. The committee has always been very interested in ensuring that American intellectual property is adequately protected."
Amy Levine cited fair use and the related Digital Media Consumer's Rights Act of 2005 (H.R. 1201) as an important priority in light of today's digital media. "[W]hat this legislation would do is just clarify that there is still fair use for digital media," she explained. "It would also codify the principle from the Sony case, often known as the Betamax case, which dealt with the VCR, and whether the VCR was a legal product. What the Supreme Court said in that case is, 'as long as there are substantial non-infringing uses for the product, that product is okay and can be sold in the marketplace.'"
David Jones called for a more comprehensive review of copyright law. "One of the things that we've been looking at over on the Senate side is whether there's a need for kind of a larger, more principled reanalysis of copyright law," he stated. "You've got a much different music market, for example, than when the 115 license passed in response to concerns about monopolization of piano rolls... It probably is time to get away from the Congress to Congress band-aid fixes and start looking at a way to harmonize the various statutory licenses and update them, so that they match current economic market assumptions and legal structures."
Initial panel remarks were followed by questions from the moderator and audience members. During the Q&A, all three panelists agreed that there would be little change regarding intellectual property policy if the House or Senate were to change to Democratic hands. Complete statements from the panelists and questions from attendees can be found in the event transcript.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.