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Copyright review continues in House of Representatives

The House Judiciary copyright review effort continued yesterday as the subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet held another hearing. Yesterday’s offering was titled, “The Rise of Innovative Business Models: Content Delivery Methods in the Digital Age.” You can view the full witness list on the subcommittee website. The scope of the hearing was generally limited to the role copyright plays in emerging business models of streaming providers and streamed content. Familiar questions regarding the threat of piracy and the appropriate level of statutory damages in copyright law were raised frequently.

Of most interest to libraries was the testimony of David Sohn, general counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). In both his written and oral testimony he urged Congress not to undermine the principle of fair use as they consider copyright reform. He writes:

Fair Use, codified in section 107 of the Copyright Act, is a flexible provision that helps the law accommodate a wide range of beneficial activity and free expression… It enables technology-based tools that help users discover and locate copyrighted works, from search engines themselves to the mass-digitization projects recently upheld in the HathiTrust and Google Books decisions.

ALA recently celebrated the decision in the Google Book Search Case. Like Sohn, ALA believes that Congress should not take any action to undermine the fair use exception when considering copyright reform. Fair use allows for situation-based analysis for determining whether the use of a work is fair, providing the flexibility necessary to learn and create in the digital age.

A recent Judiciary Committee press release indicated there will be more hearings to come as Congress moves into the New Year. Unlike the previous round of hearings that have focused on high level copyright issues, the next round will begin to address specific components of copyright law. Specifically, there will be hearings on fair use (section 107), notice and takedown provisions (section 512), and likely the first sale doctrine (section 109). We’ll have coverage of all those hearings here at the District Dispatch.

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Ted Wegner is a former member of the Washington Office government relations team.

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