Lawmakers Unveil First of Copyright Reforms

Courtesy of US Copyright Office

House lawmakers unveiled the first major proposals to follow a series of hearings and meetings on reviewing copyright law.

The proposal from House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking member, would give greater autonomy to the Copyright Office, although it will remain part of the legislative branch.

“This is just the beginning of this stage of the copyright review, and we intend to release policy proposals on music licensing issues and other individual issue areas in time,” they said in a statement.

The proposal also would subject the Register of Copyrights to a nomination and consent process, with a 10-year term limit subject to renomination. They also are calling for adding staffers to the office, including a chief economist, chief technologist, and deputy register.

Carla Hayden, the new Librarian of Congress, recently removed Maria Pallante as the Register of Copyrights, who oversees the office. That caused a stir among D.C. representatives of the content industry, some of whom openly expressed alarm at the move.

Their proposal also calls for upgrading technology, with a searchable database of past and current copyright ownership. They also want to encourage the inclusion of licensing agents in the information.

On Thursday, legislation was introduced to create a small claims board within the Copyright Office, with the purpose of handling “low value” infringement cases. The amount of damages would be a maximum of $15,000 per work infringed. The Librarian of Congress would appoint three full-time claims officers to serve on the board.

The legislation was introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). They are both members of the Judiciary Committee, and Chu is co-chair and founder of the Creative Rights Caucus.

Goodlatte launched the copyright review hearings in 2013.