Within days of major broadcast companies appealing a three judge panel decision to the en banc Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, asking the full court to overturn the panel's refusal to enjoin the further deployment and operation of Aereo -- the upstart Internet distributor of network television programs -- the second battleground emerged in this fierce conflict. See previous blog postings on January 18 and April 15.
According to Politico, House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte announced late last week that he will hold a series of hearings on potential updates to U.S. copyright law. According to Goodlatte:
“It is my belief that a wide review of our nation’s copyright laws and related enforcement mechanisms is timely…The House Judiciary Committee will hold a comprehensive series of hearings on U.S. copyright law in the months ahead. The goal of these hearings will be to determine whether the laws are still working in the digital age.”
In other words, among other things, is Aereo flouting the essential purposes of the Copyright Act and, if so, what should we do about it?
It was only last month that the House intellectual property subcommittee also convened hearings on the copyright law, with subcommittee Chairman Howard Coble and Goodlatte both stating that they wanted to determine whether a comprehensive update to U.S. copyright law was warranted.
As was observed many years ago by a notable industry participant, "technology moves at the speed of a jet plane" whereas "the law tries to catch up with a horse and buggy."
Although Aereo may be the real motivator here, there are other issues that need addressing in light of technological developments: Internet webcasting music license fees, radio broadcast music licensing, video piracy at home and abroad, changes to the "first sale" doctrine, and a clarification of what was meant by the phrase "lawfully made under this title" when confronting issues relating to U.S. goods made abroad and imported back into this country.
No word yet from the ranking minority members of either House committee or subcommittee or from their Senate counterparts (Leahy D-VT; Grassley R-IA) but one thing is certain: that is, the battle will be ferocious, ongoing and fought on three fronts simultaneously: the courts, in Congress, and -- most importantly -- the marketplace.