IFTA Weighs in on the Future of the U.S. Copyright Office and the DMCA

Since 2013 the House Judiciary Committee has been engaged in comprehensive review of the U.S. Copyright Law with the goal of determining whether the copyright laws are still working in the digital age to reward creativity and innovation.  IFTA has actively participated in the Committee’s review process that has involved various hearings and requests for public comment.

This past December, Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released a White Paper entitled “Reform of the U.S. Copyright Office” as the first policy proposal to emerge from the Committee’s work.  This initial proposal focuses on modernizing the U.S. Copyright Office itself and IFTA was one of 74 stakeholders to submit written comments in response to the Committee’s request for public input on the proposal.

The Copyright Office currently is a subdivision of the Library of Congress and thus its budget and operations are determined by the Librarian of Congress.  The Office is responsible for the registration and recording of all U.S. copyrights; for providing impartial expert advice on copyright law and policy to Congress, the U.S. government and international agencies; and for specialized rule-making.  In recent years, its visibility has increased as it addressed the extent to which certain new technologies could be pursued notwithstanding conflicts with the anti-circumvention provisions set forth at Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  Specifically, the Office’s prior leadership helped initiate the current Congressional review through a lecture entitled, The Next Great Copyright Act, and subsequent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, in which Congress was called upon to consider updating the Copyright Law for the twenty-first century.

In its written comments, IFTA expressed support for the Committee’s call for increased funding, updates to the IT infrastructure, and for the Copyright Office to operate autonomously from the Library of Congress, under a Register of Copyrights that is subject to the same nomination and consent process as other senior government officials.  Traction for these initiatives is growing within Congress as proposed legislation to modernize the Copyright Office known as the “Copyright Office for the Digital Economy Act or CODE Act” was also recently reintroduced in the House by Representatives.

Separate from the ongoing Congressional review process, the U.S. Copyright Office is also continuing its public study aimed at evaluating the impact and effectiveness of the ISPs’ “safe harbor” from copyright infringement liability under Section 512 of the DMCA.  IFTA recently submitted further comments to the Office reiterating the call for a rebalanced approach to the Section 512 safe harbors through updated legislation that provides a “notice, takedown and stay-down” framework to incentivize all stakeholders in the digital ecosystem to take effective and rapid action to mitigate online piracy, especially infringement resulting from pre-release theft.

As these efforts move forward, IFTA will continue to follow the developments to modernize the U.S. Copyright Office ensuring that it may effectively operate in today’s digital age and advocate for an updated DMCA to ensure an effective legal framework to address online copyright infringement, with the dual goal of supporting creativity and innovation.