Copyright Review Process Will Continue Into 2015; Education and Circumvention Will Be Next Issues Examined

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Tamlin Bason's Interview With Rep. Robert Goodlatte

Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.) has served in Congress since 1993. He became Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in 2013. Prior to that he served as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet.

In April 2013, Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) announced that the House Judiciary Committee would conduct a "comprehensive" review of U.S. copyright laws. In September of that year Bloomberg BNA spoke with stakeholders about the review efforts, many of whom were pleased with the deliberate and meticulous dissection of the Copyright Act that had just begun. Since that time, the House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet has heard from dozens of witnesses on a handful of copyright topics. For its second recap of the review process, Bloomberg BNA reached out to Goodlatte, who agreed to talk about the process so far and about what to expect in the coming months as the Committee looks to wrap up its exhaustive review.

Bloomberg BNA : Given the outcry that caused the Stop Online Piracy Act to be shelved in January 2012, what factors led you to believe that Congress and stakeholders would have an appetite for a comprehensive discussion on the nation's copyright laws when you announced the House Judiciary Committee's review just 15 months later?

"[I]t is my belief that a wide review of our nation's copyright laws and related enforcement mechanisms is overdue."

Goodlatte : Think of the technological changes that have occurred since the 1976 Copyright Act was enacted. In 1976, we would never have imagined that most Americans would have portable phones and that in addition to using them for phone calls, they would be downloading movies, streaming music and receiving emails on them.

We have seen great technological advances since 1976 and for that reason we must ensure that our laws are keeping pace with these advances. So it is my belief that a wide review of our nation's copyright laws and related enforcement mechanisms is overdue.

Bloomberg BNA : The first hearing under the review examined how diverse stakeholders with starkly different viewpoints can work together in a productive manner to address polarizing copyright issues. Was this an attempt the move beyond the vitriol that permeated copyright policy discussions during and following the SOPA debate? If so, have you been satisfied with the tone of the discussions during the review hearings so far?

Goodlatte : The goal the House Judiciary Committee's comprehensive copyright review has been to determine whether the copyright laws are still working in the digital age to reward creativity and innovation.

Part of a successful review of any statute is bringing diverse stakeholders together to have a conversation of various issues. So far we have held 15 hearings as part of the review and I believe these hearings have been successful and productive in that the various stakeholders and interested parties have come together to discuss the issues they face.

A Call For Comprehensive Review

Bloomberg BNA : Have there been any issues or topics that you expected to be more contentious than they actually were?

Goodlatte : I think there is wide agreement that the digital age has challenged our copyright laws in ways never imagined.

"I think there is wide agreement that the digital age has challenged our copyright laws in ways never imagined."

Bloomberg BNA : Likewise, what topics (if any) have sparked more disagreement than you anticipated?

Goodlatte : It has been apparent that sometimes the differences are over fundamental words, not just policies.

For example, at our music licensing hearings, the witnesses were asked how they would define a fair market and a free market. No two answers were alike.

Education, Circumvention Next Up

Bloomberg BNA : The hearings have covered everything from broad discussions on copyright's role in innovation, to nuanced analysis of music licensing. What topics are left to discuss?

Goodlatte : We have several topics left in the Committee's review of copyright law. Two topics that the Committee will likely consider next will be education and circumvention.

Bloomberg BNA : Do you have a timeline for how long the comprehensive review will last?

Goodlatte : We have a handful of topics that we expect to examine in the coming months. Due to the condensed Congressional schedule this fall, I expect the review to continue into 2015.

Bloomberg BNA : Is an omnibus copyright bill the ideal end product of this process? If so, would a reasonable timeline for the introduction and passage of such legislation be measured in months, years or decades?

Goodlatte : It would be premature to speculate on an end product until the Committee's review is complete.

Bloomberg BNA : Finally, should the 1976 Copyright Act be updated or replaced?

Goodlatte : I am not going to draw any conclusions about what may or may not need to be changed until we have completed the review of the Copyright Act.

Quotes From Review Hearings

The following track more of Gooldatte's statements on the review from its inception through the most recent hearing, held July 24 to examine copyright remedies. 

• "[T]he House Judiciary Committee will hold a comprehensive series of hearings on U.S. copyright law," Goodlatte, the Committee's chairman, said on April 24, 2013, announcing the comprehensive review for the first time.

• "It is my intention to conduct this broad overview by hearing from everyone interested in copyright law," Goodlatte said during the first review hearing, held May 16, 2013.

• "These two important components of our economy have a unique symbiotic relationship and are responsible for significant innovation in America," Goodlatte said of the content community and the technology sector, subjects of the second and third hearings.

• "While there is no doubt that flexibility in the copyright system is beneficial, certainty with regard to our legal provisions is just as beneficial, both for copyright owners and copyright users," Goodlatte said during a hearing examining the scope of the fair use doctrine, held shortly after a hearing examining the scope of copyright protection in general.

• "In an interesting twist, different groups point to the same statistics showing the mammoth amount of notices being sent today as proof of either the system working as designed or the system not working as designed," Goodlatte said in regards to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's notice and takedown provision during a hearing examining Section 512 of that law.

• "[T]he first sale doctrine is an essential part of our nation's commerce and understanding its impact in the digital age is something this Committee looks forward to hearing more about," Goodlatte's said during a June 2 field hearing on the first sale doctrine that was held in New York.

• "As we consider challenges and potential solutions to the copyright laws relating to music, we should keep in mind ideas that incorporate more free market principles," Goodlatte said during the second of two hearings held to examine music licensing issues.

• "[C]oncerns have been raised by small copyright owners who are unable to access the legal system due to its high entry costs," Goodlatte said in his opening remarks for a July 24 hearing on Copyright Remedies. 

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