It has been a busy time for those of us who watch the doings of the Copyright Office. In addition to releasing a massive report on Orphan Works and Mass Digitization, about which I have written here, the Copyright Office (CO) is the subject of a piece of legislation introduced as a discussion draft on June 3. The bill, if it were officially introduced and ultimately enacted, would remove the CO from the Library of Congress (LC) and establish it as an independent agency of the federal government, under the Executive Branch. Then, while we were still considering the ramifications of this idea, came the announcement on June 10 of the pending retirement of Dr. James Billington, who has been the Librarian of Congress for the past 29 years.
Copyright and Fair Use
The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) joined forces with Europeana and Creative Commons (CC) to create a collaborative, interoperable platform for international rights statements. The International Rights Statement Working Group (Working Group), composed of representatives from the three organizations, spent the past 12 months outlining a proposal for a common framework to provide rights statements for both national and international cultural heritage objects.
A group of technology companies, trade associations, and civil society organizations have joined forces to form Re:Create, a national coalition to advocate for balanced copyright policy. In the wake of recent proposals to amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, as well as constant advances in the field of knowledge creation, coalition members are calling for responsive copyright law that balances the interests of those who create information and products with those of users and innovators, providing robust exceptions as well as limitations to copyright law in order that it not limit new uses and technologies.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) on April 16 introduced the “Breaking Down Barriers to Innovation Act,” a bill that would make significant changes to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which gives the Library of Congress the power to grant exemptions to DMCA’s ban on circumventing digital rights management (DRM) software, encryption, or other digital restrictions.
Kyle Courtney is infectiously enthusiastic—about copyright law, MOOCs, open access, Harvard’s Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) (“we are a nimble, technologically awesome library unit”), and especially his Copyright First Responders (CFRs), a cohort of 14 volunteer librarians assembled to serve as the first line of defense for the ever-growing number of copyright questions fielded by Harvard libraries. CFRs spent spring and summer 2014 attending Courtney’s Copyright Immersion Program, learning about copyright fundamentals, fair use, public domain, open access, and more.
Each year the copyright community celebrates January 1 as “Public Domain Day.” That is because a convenient fiction included in most nations’ copyright laws says that if a work’s term of protection expired during the previous year, it officially enters the public domain on the following January 1st. Instead of having to figure out the exact day of an author’s death, and having different works enter the public domain each day, we just save them all up, so that all the works whose term expired in 2014 (i.e., all works whose authors died 70 years earlier, in 1944) entered the public domain on New Year’s Day 2015. At least, they did in most other countries, but not in the U.S.
The word “incentive” appears ten times in the ruling issued last month by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the Georgia State University (GSU) copyright infringement case, but it is slightly unclear in this rather odd opinion just who is the object of the incentive created by copyright. In seven of those ten instances, the incentive is clearly intended to benefit the author. But there are three sentences at the very end of the majority opinion (the other three uses of the word) where the court seems to interrupt its analysis to state that the incentive belongs to publishers, not authors. It is, I think, worth parsing this apparent contradiction in order to guess at how the trial court might think about incentives on remand.