House Judiciary Chairman Promises Series of Hearings on U.S. Copyright Law

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) announced yesterday plans to conduct a serious of hearings aimed at identifying problems with U.S. copyright laws and updating them for the modern digital age. Goodlatte was a key sponsor of the failed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) last year alongside the bill's author, former chairman of the Judiciary Committee Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

"It is my belief that a wide review of our nation’s copyright laws and related enforcement mechanisms is timely. I am announcing today that the House Judiciary Committee will hold a comprehensive series of hearings on U.S. copyright law in the months ahead," Goodlatte said in a prepared statement. "The goal of these hearings will be to determine whether the laws are still working in the digital age."

"The Internet has enabled copyright owners to make available their works to consumers around the world, but has also enabled others to do so without any compensation for copyright owners. Efforts to digitize our history so that all have access to it face questions about copyright ownership by those who are hard, if not impossible, to locate," Goodlatte added. "There are concerns about statutory license and damage mechanisms."

While the Chairman did not get into what specific topics would be discussed at these hearings, it is likely that online piracy, orphan works and music licensing will be part of the lengthy discussion.

The real question is, who will the committee call to testify and will it be a one-sided industry focused cast of characters giving testimony to lawmakers.

Both consumer advocate groups and trade groups representing various entertainment industries seemed cautiously optimistic about the series of hearings. Public Knowledge said that it "welcomed" the hearings but hopes that a balanced approach that protects the public is taken into account. Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, also welcomed the hearings, but hoped that lawmakers will take a balanced approach in its "final outcome." David Israelite, the CEO of the National Music Publishers' Association, said he hoped the hearings addressed music royalties issues – adding that new digital services refuse to pay songwriters and their music publishing partners "a fair market rate."

We'll have more on these hearings as additional information about them is released.

Source: The Hill


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