Tag Archives: Congress

Anticipating Today’s Hearing on Copyright Reform

In late April, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) announced he intended to tackle copyright reform over the summer. Later today, the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property will hold its first hearing to address the subject, entitled “A Case Study for Consensus Building: The Copyright Principles Project.”

Today’s hearing will be worth watching, and could mark the beginning of efforts to enact meaningful reforms to our copyright system.

Congress has seemed reluctant to tackle copyright issues since the widespread blowback it received in 2011 and 2012 over SOPA and PIPA, controversial copyright legislation that many argued went too far to enforce copyright protections.

Already there’s been a great deal of speculation as to how the Judiciary Committee will approach copyright reform. Mike Masnick at Techdirt, who extensively covered the SOPA / PIPA bills, expressed cautious optimism about these hearings, and saw the subcommittee’s selection of witnesses for this first hearing as a promising sign that it wants to handle reform in a prudent manner.

Still, there has been a certain level of skepticism about the hearing. Mark Hachman at ReadWriteWeb expressed concern that Chairman Goodlatte’s past support for SOPA and CISPA means the Judiciary Committee as a whole will be unable to strike the right balance between ensuring compensation for copyright holders and ensuring innovation in new technologies and services continues, and will favor the copyright community’s interests over others.

David Lowery, a musician of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven fame, wrote in Politico that he fears the views of the actual content creators will be ignored in this hearing. He argued that the perspective of the artists is crucial to meaningfully addressing problems in the copyright system and developing solutions to them, adding that he expects Chairman Goodlatte to include that community in future hearings.

There have also been calls for the subcommittee to not lose sight of the public’s importance during these hearings. Public Knowledge’s Sherwin Siy said that while the organization lauds the Judiciary Committee for addressing copyright reform, copyright law “can often be a barrier[] to everyday individuals’ ordinary uses of media,” and that Congress should “work to balance the interests of artists with those of their audiences and the public in general.”

While this is only the first in a series of hearings on copyright reform, concerns that Congress will ignore the views of the content industry, the tech community, or the general public are to be expected. No doubt we can expect to hear more from all sides as the Judiciary Committee continues its work on the issue.

Indeed, despite concerns about Congress’s ability to address copyright matters in a balanced way, Chairman Goodlatte’s reform effort could prove to be a positive step. Instead of rushing headlong into another effort to pass legislation (as some, including us, might argue was the case with SOPA), the subcommittee is taking a look at how the current copyright system is functioning, what is working well, what isn’t, and where there might be some areas of agreement so meaningful reform can occur. Chairman Goodlatte said that the goal of these hearings “will be to determine whether the copyright laws are still working in the digital age to reward creativity and innovation.”

Chairman Goodlatte and his subcommittee will have assistance from other quarters as well. On May 2, the National Academy of Sciences Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy (STEP) published a report entitled “Copyright in the Digital Era: Building Evidence For Policy.” Although the report was not designed to give recommendations to Congress, it is aimed at identifying data lawmakers need to make informed policy decisions. But the report makes clear that we need much more data about how the copyright system operates in practice to identify areas that need work and being devising solutions.

Given Chairman Goodlatte’s stated desire to learn rather than quickly advance a legislative agenda, today’s hearing should be a good starting point for addressing copyright reform issues.

Testifying before the subcommittee are Jon Baumgarten (former General Counsel of the U.S. Copyright Office), Laura Gasaway (UNC Law School Professor), Daniel Gervais (Vanderbilt Law School Professor), Pamela Samuelson (UC Berkeley School of Law Professor), and Jule Sigall (Assistant General Counsel for Copyright at Microsoft). All five witnesses are also members of the Copyright Principles Project, an effort launched in 2007 to bring together copyright practitioners, academics, and stakeholders to identify possible areas of agreement on how to improve the copyright system. In 2010 the Copyright Principles Project issued a report outlining 25 recommendations for reform, including encouraging registration of copyrights (not a requirement under current law), increasing the Copyright Offices technical and economic expertise, and a number of suggestions relating to the award of damages in infringement cases.

The hearing will begin at 2 pm – you can watch here.

Tagged ,

The Latest On SOPA / PIPA

Yesterday, six Republican senators of the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Harry Reid, telling him that PIPA is not ready to be brought to a vote and that significant work must be done on it. The letter expressed concerns over the “cybersecurity implications” and “dilution of First Amendment rights” the current legislation poses. This comes as another Republican, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania,  declared he was unlikely to support PIPA.

Meanwhile, the White House issued a response to two petitions urging the President to veto SOPA, stating:

While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.

That may seem like significant statement, but as Politico points out, “it stopped short of saying whether that includes two bills that have sent the tech industry into a panic.”

And earlier today, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) announced that a hearing scheduled for January 18th on technical concerns about SOPA has been postponed following assurances from Rep. Lamar Smith that the legislation won’t move forward without a consensus. Smith also said that the DNS blocking provisions would be removed from the bill.

Despite these developments, opposition remains fierce. The SOPA blackouts are still on for the 18th. And on the 17th, Marvin will be doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit. Be sure to check it out.

Tagged , , ,

Morning Stories (1-13-2012)

  • The Hill reports that Sen. Patrick Leahy will be putting forth a manager’s amendment of PIPA for the January 24 vote, pledging to cut the DNS blocking provision from the legislation. Mike Masnick at TechDirt provides some critical analysis.
  • Meanwhile, Rep. Jared Polis has taken to the League of Legends gaming forum to rally the opposition to PIPA and SOPA. And Carl Franzen at TPM asks what the upcoming January 18th “Blackout” and House Oversight Committee hearing will accomplish.
  • Gen. Keith Alexander, head of US Cyber Command,  reiterates that active defenses are increasingly necessary to thwart cyber threats, suggesting the current approach used by most businesses is akin to the “Maginot Line.”
  • At the Technology Liberation Front, Berin Szoka, Geoffrey Manne, and Ryan Radia have a thoughtful piece on Google’s Search Plus Your World:

All the usual blustering and speculation in the latest Google antitrust debate has obscured what should, however, be the two key prior questions: (1) Did Google violate the antitrust laws by not including data from Facebook, Twitter and other social networks in its new SPYW program alongside Google+ content; and (2) How might antitrust restrain Google in conditioning participation in this program in the future?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Morning Stories (1-12-2012)

  • Senator Wyden and Representative  Issa spoke about  SOPA at CES and warned that there’s not much time left to stop the legislation. IBI Times and cnet discuss their remarks.
  • The Brookings Institute hosted an event yesterday entitled “Principles of Internet Governance: An Agenda for Economic Growth and Innovation.” You can watch the event here, and read a recap of the event from National Journal.
  • Pirate Bay is again “clogged up” by Dutch Authorities, who have ordered two ISPs to block access to the site, or face daily fines of €10,000.
  • Carl Szabo at NetChoice discusses the Second Circuit decision of Kirstaeng v Wiley & Sons that held the first-sale doctrine is inapplicable for products manufactured outside the US. NetChoice has filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court asking the Court to overturn the decision.
Tagged , , , , , ,

Morning Stories (1-5-2012)

  • Dennis Berman at the Wall Street Journal discusses how algorithms and data analytics continue to shape our world, in ways we might not even expect.
  • Apple is increasing pressure on “app pirates” by sending numerous DMCA notices to Apptrackr, a website that locates cracked apps.
  • The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) has completed its transition to a cloud based email system, as part of a broader government cost savings effort to move appropriate systems to the cloud.
  • Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOM asks some crucial questions about what we want and need our elected officials to understand about technology and the Internet, a “political litmus test for tech.” In addition to Higginbotham’s questions – what do you think is important for our leaders to grasp in this area?
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Morning Stories (1-4-2012)

  • Yesterday there was a great deal of ballyhoo over news that Belarus had passed a law to prevent its citizens from browsing foreign websites. The law is a bit more nuanced than that, but nevertheless concern is warranted. Glyn Moody at TechDirt and Gavin Clarke at The Register give good breakdowns on what we know about the law.
  • John Dunn at CIO discusses Japan’s development of a new “virus cyberweapon” that can be used to back trace attacks and shut down offending systems.
  • Brendan Sasso at The Hill reports that the ACLU is suing a Missouri public library after it blocked websites related to Wicca.
  • Want to know where your representatives in Congress stand on PIPA and SOPA? Check out SOPA Track – you can see whether your lawmakers are actively supporting or opposing the legislation, and how much money they’ve raised from groups in favor of and opposed to the legislation.
Tagged , , , , , ,

Morning Stories (12-30-2011)

  • Carl Franzen at TPM gives a rundown of SOPA opponents’ plans to deal with the bill’s supporters, including going after two Republican legislators. If you’re curious about who is undeserving of political support in this next election, consider rewatching the SOPA markup hearing to get some insight.
  • Joe Brockmeier at ReadWriteWeb calls 2011 “the year the free ride died.”
  • Charities are investigating whether contributions they received were the result of the Anonymous STRATFOR hack. They’ve pledged to refund any such money.
  • Finally, a couple stories that aren’t entirely tech related but nonetheless relevant reading:
    • First – Egyptian military forces raided the offices of over a dozen NGOs yesterday, seizing computer equipment and documents. From the article:

The raids, particularly those on American pro-democracy and human-rights organizations, mark a significant deterioration in the relationship between Washington and one of its closest military allies in the Middle East. The U.S. government has supported Egypt’s military since the 1970s, with $1.3 billion in annual funding that now amounts to an estimated 20% of its budget.

    • Second – Vidgar Helgesen writing at ISN heralds 2012 as the beginning of the Age of the Citizen. From the article:

It’s true also that the idea of the free citizen as the source of all political power is age-old. But never has it been applied so directly as in 2011. What happened first in Tunisia and Egypt were called leaderless revolutions, but really what we saw was ordinary citizens taking the lead. 

Tagged , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 51 other followers