While the new Congress will not begin until after the New Year, already copyright reform has been teed up to be on the agenda. Posted last week on the website of the House of Representative’s Judiciary Committee was an announcement that the committee would be posting policy proposals for copyright reform from time to time, and asking for public comment. The first proposal was posted with that announcement, looking at suggestions for reform of the structure of the Copyright Office.
The initial proposals are modest, suggesting that the Register of Copyrights be independently appointed (rather than being selected by the Librarian of Congress), that the Office has greater independence to appoint advisory committees and over its technology budget, and that there be authority to set up a small copyright claims adjudicatory process. We wrote about the small claims proposal that was advanced in Congress last year, here. We also have written about more sweeping changes that have been proposed for the Copyright Office, here, which apparently are not yet on the table. However, as this policy proposal solicits public comment by January 31, 2017, other ideas for the reform of the Copyright Office may be advanced in the comments that are submitted.
The Committee’s statement refers to Chairman Goodlatte’s call in 2014 for reform of the copyright laws. These include looking at music issues – potentially including the broadcast performance royalty. We wrote about Chairman Goodlatte’s music proposals back in 2014, here: http://www.broadcastlawblog.com/2014/07/articles/the-summer-of-copyright-part-2-the-house-judiciary-committee-plans-omnibus-music-licensing-bill-the-music-bus/. Since then, the committee has had several hearings on music issues, as well as on other copyright topics, including issues with the Section 512 safe harbor for user-generated content. See our articles here and here for a discussion of some of those issues here.
There are many other issues that will no doubt come up in any discussion of copyright reform. Because of the broad range of issues involved, and the complexity of those issues with various parties sometimes having dramatically different positions, this is unlikely to be a process that moves quickly. But it will, no doubt, be one that provokes much discussion in the coming year. We’ll be writing more about these issues as the debate advances in the coming year.