Tag Archives: copyright

USPTO White Paper on Remixes, First Sale, and Statutory Damages

*Guest post by Jonathan Band, policybandwidth*

Today the Department of Commerce Internet Policy Task Force today released its White Paper on Remixes, First Sale, and Statutory Damages. (This follows on from the Green Paper issued in 2013.) The Task Force has proposed several significant changes to statutory damages. It recommends that the statutory damages provision be amended: 1) to incorporate a list of factors for courts and juries to consider when determining the amount of a statutory damages award; 2) to expand the eligibility for lower innocent infringement awards when the copyright owner uses a copyright notice; and 3) to give courts discretion to assess statutory damages other than on a strict per-work basis in cases involving non-willful secondary infringement for online services offering a large number of works. These changes, if adopted, would make the statutory damages framework much less burdensome. The Task Force does not recommend any statutory changes relating to remixes or digital first sale, but it proposes multi-stakeholder negotiations related to these issues. The White Paper contains numerous references to comments submitted by the Library Copyright Alliance (which consists of ARL, ALA, and ACRL) and individual libraries.

The message at the beginning of the White Paper from Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker states that “a healthy copyright system strikes important balances between rights and exceptions–delineating what is protectable and what is not, determining which types of uses require permission or payment, and establishing appropriate frameworks to effectively protect rights and foster creativity and innovation. These balances must be reviewed regularly to ensure they continue to function well as a foundation for America’s culture and economy.”

Digital First Sale. The Task Force does not recommend statutory amendment to facilitate digital first sale. It says that it was hard to measure the extent of consumer loss resulting from the absence of a digital first sale provision. Further, it feels that the market has responded with business models such as providing access to large quantities of digital works, e.g., Netflix. At the same time, digital first sale could cause harm to the primary market. Accordingly, the Task Force sees no need to amend the Act at this time.

However, the Task Force notes the problems libraries had experienced with the lending of e-books. The Task Force observes that the situation appears to be improving, and that government intervention could interfere with the development of innovative solutions. However, “if over time it becomes apparent that libraries have been unable to appropriately serve their patrons due to overly restrictive terms imposed by publishers, further action may be advisable (such as convening library and publisher stakeholders to develop best practices, or amending the Copyright Act).” Similarly, the Task Force recognizes that publishers might interfere with library preservation. This could be addressed, if necessary, in the context of updating section 108.

Remixes. The White Paper does not recommend any statutory changes to facilitate the creation of remixes. The Task Force recognizes that fair use is the central mechanism for permitting remixes, and believes that fair use performs this job well. It rejects compulsory licensing schemes as unnecessary. At the same time, the Task Force has suggestions for making it easier for remixers to understand what uses are fair and to obtain a license when they wish to do so. While recognizing the role of single sector best practices (e.g., the best practices organized by AU), it expresses a preference for negotiated guidelines for remixing. Although acknowledging the challenge of different stakeholders reaching an agreement on guidelines, it believes they are achievable if the scope of any guideline is narrow enough.

The Task Force also encourages the development of voluntary licensing systems. It acknowledges the concern the Library Copyright Alliance raised that licensing systems might undermine fair use, but disagrees with that assessment in a helpful way. In essence, it argues that the fourth fair use factor receives less weight in cases of transformative uses. Thus, the existence of a licensing system should not weaken a remixer’s fair use argument.

The Task Force recognizes that users would benefit from clarification of the terms of EULAs, and recommends a multi-stakeholder process for better communicating terms to the public (e.g., developing standardized notices or alternatives to a “buy” button).

Statutory Damages. As noted above, the White Paper’s most important contribution is in the area of statutory damages. The Task Force recognizes that the existing framework can be applied inconsistently because courts and juries have insufficient guidance. Moreover, the potential of draconian damages deters development of innovative technologies. At the same time, the Task Force does not seem convinced that there was a copyright troll problem.

The Task Force’s first proposal is to codify model jury instructions concerning statutory damages adopted by several circuits. The instructions include a list of factors to consider when determining the amount of a statutory damages award. These factors would help insure that the damages award is related to the actual harm and that the defendant’s state of mind and financial condition are given appropriate weight. These factors would improve consistency and transparency in the application of statutory damages.

The second proposal is to expand the eligibility for lower innocent infringement awards ($200 as opposed to $750). Currently, under sections 401(d) and 402(d), the innocent infringer defense is not available when the copyright owner places a copyright notice on the work. The Task Force proposes eliminating the preclusive effect of notice on the innocent infringement defense. At the same time, the Task Force rejects the Library Copyright Alliance proposal to expand the remission of damages when a library or archives has a good faith belief that its copying was a fair use. Currently, this provision applies only to the reproduction right, not the other exclusive rights. The Task Force believes that the libraries had not demonstrated need for this amendment. If the problem becomes more evident, the Task Force suggests addressing it in the context of section 108 reform.

The third proposal is to give courts discretion to assess statutory damages other than on a strict per-work basis in cases involving non-willful secondary infringement for online services offering a large number of works. This would reduce the threat statutory damages pose to innovative Internet companies.

Finally, the Task Force expresses support for the establishment of a small claims court for copyright infringement. The Task Force evidently believes that such a court could benefit defendants by diverting smaller cases away from a venue where significant statutory damages can be assessed.

Edited: January 28, 5:00pm

Meaningful Transparency is Needed in Trade Negotiations

We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation. Today’s topic is “Transparency: Copyright policy must be set through a participatory, democratic and transparent process. It should not be decided through back room deals or secret international agreements.

Transparency in government is fundamental to a democratic society and meaningful participation.  Without access to information about the laws and policies being considered, the public is unable to substantively comment and address potential areas of concern or challenge and influence public policy.

The negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) which took place over the course of more than five years before a final agreement was reached in October 2015, highlight a poor exercise in transparency.  Over the course of the lengthy negotiations, the official text was never released nor was it released when the trade ministers of the twelve negotiating parties announced conclusion of the agreement.  It was not until December 2015 that any of the parties released the text for the public to view.  While there were several leaks of various portions of the agreement, including quite a few leaks of the intellectual property chapter, relying on leaks is a poor substitute for official releases of text.  By the time a trade agreement reaches its conclusion, it is very difficult, if not impossible to change the text (particularly given the number of negotiating parties in the case of the TPP) and it is therefore important that the public is engaged at an earlier date.

Throughout these negotiations, USTR and other negotiating governments often made claims that the process was a transparent one.  They touted the fact that they provided information about the locations of negotiating rounds and invited stakeholders to give presentations on a “stakeholder engagement” session and attend briefings by the chief negotiators.  However, this form of engagement is not a substitute for seeing the actual text.  Furthermore, the last time stakeholders were provided an official opportunity to present to the negotiators was in August 2013, despite the fact that negotiations continued for more than two years after.

On October 27, 2015, the White House its Third Open Government National Action Plan which sets forth a number of initiatives designed to create a more open government.  One plan initiative regarding access to information reads:

Increase Transparency of Trade Policy and Negotiations. In September 2015, the Administration appointed a Chief Transparency Officer in the Office of the United States Trade Representative who will take concrete steps to increase transparency in trade negotiations, engage with the public, and consult with Congress on transparency policy. This work builds on previous steps to increase stakeholder engagement with trade negotiators, expand participation in trade advisory committees, and publish more trade information online. To further increase public access to U.S. trade policy and negotiations, the Office of the United States Trade Representative will also continue to promote transparency and public access to international trade disputes in the World Trade Organization and under regional trade agreements, and encourage other countries to similarly increase transparency in this regard. The Office of the United States Trade Representative will also continue to encourage posting video of trade dispute hearings to give the public insight into these processes.

While increased transparency is always welcome, in the case of the TPP, this goal comes too late.  Furthermore, the initiative may also be too little as the specifics of the plan reveal that the government is not committing to the transparency necessary for the public to engage in informed debate.  While increased stakeholder engagement with negotiators would certainly be welcomed, there is no commitment to releasing the actual negotiating texts.  Furthermore, the “expand[ed] participation in trade advisory committees” may not be that useful given that under the current rules of the trade advisory committees, individuals are required to sign non-disclosure agreements.

The text of the copyright provisions of the TPP improved over the course of the negotiations.  Many areas of concerns raised by critics of the agreement once leaked text was available were addressed, possibly because of the outcry over these provisions.  Yet, again, relying on the availability of leaked text is risky and the public should be given an opportunity to comment on issues that will affect them, within a timeframe where such criticisms can be addressed. Backdoor policymaking has no place in a democratic society.

As the TPP negotiations have concluded (though it must still be signed and ratified by each of the negotiating parties), attention will turn to another regional trade agreement: the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union.

The EU has made steps toward increased transparency in the negotiations.  In November 2014, the European Commission announced that it would publish the dates, locations, names and organizations it meets with and the topics of its discussions. Specifically, the Commission agreed that with respect to the TTIP it would make public the negotiating texts it shares with Member States and Parliament, provide all Members of the European Parliament the TTIP texts, make less negotiating documents classified, and publish a public list of TTIP documents that have been shared with the European Parliament and Council.

The EU has already started to fulfill its promise to enhance transparency and “negotiat[e] TTIP as openly as possible.” On January 7, 2015, the EU released its negotiating texts that had been shared with US negotiators as well as position papers for areas which it had not yet developed and proposed text. The EU’s position paper on intellectual property revealed the intended architecture of the chapter including 1) a list of international intellectual property agreements signed by the EU and US; 2) shared principles that are based on existing rules and practices; 3) binding commitments (specifically referencing two copyright issues: resale rights for visual artists and public performance and broadcasting rights); and 4) areas where the EU and US can work together on areas of shared interests. The fact sheet specifically states that because the EU and US already have detailed enforcement provisions in their laws, “we wont negotiate rules on things like penal enforcement [and] internet service provider liability.”

The United States should improve its commitments to increased transparency in trade negotiations and make their proposals public.  Descriptions about negotiating texts and engagement with stakeholders are no substitutes for the ability to view and comment on the actual texts.  Often, the language included in these agreements are highly technical and commentary and concerns can change based on the exact text.  The goal of increasing transparency should be applauded, but meaningful transparency must be achieved.

 

New Advocacy and Policy Update

The latest ARL Advocacy and Public Policy Update (covering the period from October 1 to December 22) is now available.  Previous Advocacy and Policy Updates can be found here.

From the current update’s summary:

Copyright continues to be an active area with a number of developments since October. The House Judiciary Committee continues to move forward with its copyright review and is close to completing its schedule of meetings between House Judiciary majority and minority staffers and witnesses who testified at hearings during the course of the review. In early 2016, members of the House Judiciary Committee will determine what issues they may want to work on with respect to possible reform. Additionally, Representatives Marino, Chu and Comstock introduced their bill on Copyright Office modernization, which would move the Copyright Office out of the Library of Congress and establish it as an independent agency within the legislative branch. On October 16, 2015, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit released its long awaited opinion in Authors Guild v. Google, strongly affirming fair use. Also in October, the Library of Congress released its final rules for the current cycle of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) Section 1201 rulemaking. Finally, the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) filed comments responding to the Copyright Office’s Notice of Inquiry regarding a proposed pilot program for mass digitization and extended collective licensing. These comments questioned the wisdom of such a pilot program.

The US Congress passed the omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2016 and avoided a government shutdown. The omnibus exceeded mandatory caps on discretionary funding, resulting in positive results for higher education and libraries.

The Department of Education issued a proposal to amend regulations and require that all Department grantees awarded direct competitive grant funds openly license all copyrightable intellectual property created with these funds. ARL submitted comments supporting the benefits of open licensing and encouraging continued dialog.

ARL joined in comments on the proposed revision to OMB Circular A-130, the Circular that provides the rules of the road for federal information management and information technology.

The DC Circuit heard oral arguments on net neutrality in December. Although threats regarding a rider to undermine the FCC’s ability enforce its net neutrality rules emerged during the omnibus appropriations process, this rider was ultimately not included.

Congress continues to consider reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and there is widespread support in the House for such reform. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 was altered in ways that raise greater privacy concerns than its original version and was passed in the omnibus appropriations bill.

The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (Fisher II), a case involving the University of Texas (UT) admissions process, which seeks to improve student body diversity.

Finally on the international front, more countries have ratified the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, moving the Treaty closer to entry into force. The negotiations of the TransPacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) have now been finalized and the texts are now public, but the agreement must still be signed and passed by each of the negotiating parties.

New 1201 Rules on Exemptions to Prohibition on Circumvention of Technological Protection Measures Released

On October 27, 2015, the Library of Congress released its final rules for the current cycle of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) Section 1201 rulemaking, setting forth exemptions from the prohibition against circumvention of technological protection measures (TPMs).  Every three years, proponents of exemptions must engage in a long process to seek renewal or expansion of existing exemptions or the granting of new exemptions in order to circumvent TPMs for non-infringing uses.  The new exemptions expand the previously granted exemptions in several areas and also grant new ones.

ARL, as part of the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) submitted petitions for proposed exemptions requesting renewal of an exemption grating people who are print disabled circumvention of technological protection measures on literary works distributed electronically as well as renewal and expansion of an exemption for motion picture excerpts for educational purposes.  LCA also joined in five filings that provide evidence for the need of various exceptions that have been proposed including for: use of audiovisual works for educational use, for MOOCs, and for informal learning and K-12; e-book accessibility; and 3-D printing.

The new rules renew the exemption for literary works distributed in electronic form for persons who are blind, visually impaired or print disabled.  Notably, there was no opposition to renewing the exemption granted in 2012 and the Association of American Publishers filed comments indicating it did not object to this renewal.  Additionally, the 2015 rules permit circumvention for motion picture excerpts for educational purposes.  In a long and detailed rule, the new exemption permits circumvention of DVDs and Blu-ray discs for the use of short portions of motion pictures by college and university faculty and students in film studies or courses requiring close analysis of film and media excerpts and by the faculty of massive open online courses (MOOCs) in film studies or other courses requiring close analysis of film and media excerpts (among other specific exceptions regarding use of motion picture excerpts).

The new exemptions also permit circumvention to access video games for the purpose of copying and modification to restore access to the game when necessary to allow preservation by a library, archive or museum.

Among other exemptions not directly related to libraries and higher education, but that highlight the absurdity of the process, the Copyright Office and Library of Congress considered exemptions to permit circumvention for the purpose of diagnosis, repair and modification of vehicles and for the purpose of security testing on vehicles or medical devices implanted in patients.  In April 2015, Wired published a piece highlighting the absurdity of using technological protection measures and copyright to prevent individuals from tinkering with items that they own in a piece titled “We Can’t Let John Deere Destroy the Very Idea of Ownership.”  While the Library of Congress ultimately granted (again, highly detailed) exemptions in these categories, but the exemption that allows diagnosis, repair or modification of a vehicle will not go into effect for 12 months.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) submitted its recommendations to the Copyright Office and noted concerns over the potential misuse of technological protection measures for non-copyright purposes and cautions against giving too much weight to non-copyright concerns implicated by proposed exemptions:

While there have long been proposed exemptions that implicated issues unrelated to copyright law, the sixth triennial rulemaking has stood out for its extensive discussions of matters with no or at best a very tenuous nexus to copyright protection.  Parties have, in this proceeding, raised concerns about medical device safety, vehicle emissions standards, best practices in software vulnerability disclosure, and other issues that are not contemplated in copyright law. In asserting the relevance of such matters to this proceeding, parties often cite the fifth statutory factor in this rulemaking, which allows the Librarian of Congress (and by extension, the Copyright Office) to consider “such other factors as the Librarian considers appropriate.”

NTIA urges the Copyright Office against interpreting the statute in a way that would require it to develop expertise in every area of policy that participants may cite on the record. Although Congress clearly included this factor to enable consideration of issues not otherwise enumerated, the deliberative process should not deviate too far afield from copyright policy concerns.6 As the Register of Copyrights noted in 2010, “the focus in this rulemaking is limited to actual or likely adverse effects on noninfringing uses of copyrighted works. No other agency has delegated authority to temporarily limit the application of the prohibition on circumvention. This prohibition was established to provide legal support for, and foster the availability of, copyrighted works in the digital environment.” Therefore, the Office should not, in its deliberations, heavily weigh unrelated matters such as greenhouse gas emissions or the quality of materials used to build aircraft, and should instead focus primarily on questions relevant to copyright law.8 Congress, applicable regulatory agencies, and their counterparts within state governments are well-equipped to deal with these non-copyright issues in the appropriate settings and under legal authorities focused on those issues.

Additionally, NTIA’s comments continue expressing concerns:

[T]hat security measures that have been deployed for non-copyright reasons—such as security and privacy, or possibly anti-competitive goals—are being described in this rulemaking as technological measures controlling access to copyrighted works under Section 1201.  This is a fundamental misuse of Section 1201, which can lead to reduced respect for the DMCA and copyright law, and can yield either an inappropriate overprotection of copyright (out of concern, for example, to avoid harming security), or a reduction in security (because of a grant of an exemption in this proceeding where indeed no significant copyright interest is at issue).

A related problem would arise if a manufacturer were to use the same technological protection measure to achieve two functions—enhance security and protect a legitimate copyright interest. Again, this could lead to inappropriate outcomes, and manufacturers would in many cases be well advised to separate techniques aimed at copyright protection from those aimed at security and privacy.

These concerns lead to two practical considerations. First, a record showing that a technological measure was not deployed with copyright protection in mind should weigh heavily in favor of a proposed exemption. Such a standard is entirely consistent with the statutory factors to be considered in this rulemaking.

Second, the increasing ubiquity of security measures has led to a widespread assumption that Section 1201 applies in a broader set of circumstances than may, in reality, be true. One of the clearest examples of this phenomenon appeared during the previous triennial rulemaking, when one group of proponents sought an exemption for circumventing access controls protecting public domain works.  The problem has further manifested itself during this proceeding, as highlighted by the confusion over whether circumvention is necessary to make certain repairs to video game consoles, as well as the possibility that the Lexmark decision may have placed some acts of circumvention involving 3D printers outside the scope of Section 1201.  In these circumstances, the Copyright Office has a role to play in clarifying the scope of Section 1201 through these proceedings. Where the prohibition against circumvention clearly does not apply, NTIA recommends the Copyright Office continue its previous practice of noting that a “requested exemption is beyond the scope of this rulemaking proceeding.”  Similarly, in cases where the prohibition may apply, but only in certain instances, NTIA suggests noting the prohibition’s limitations when recommending an exemption to the Librarian. NTIA further encourages the Copyright Office to make clear to manufacturers and content creators that they should remain cognizant of the underlying purposes for which an access control is implemented. Manufacturers should not implement access controls on devices to restrict certain device functions or enforce non-copyright-related business models—which is not the purpose behind Section 1201—and then try to use the DMCA to enforce a business model or limit a user’s post-purchase modification of a device.

While the 2015 exemptions include some improvements with respect to expanded exceptions, the rules have become more verbose and complex over the course of the six rulemaking cycles. The long, detailed exemptions will lead to greater confusion and make the exemptions less useful.  Laura Quilter has this excellent post on the complexity of the new exemptions.

Second Circuit Affirms Fair Use in Google Books Case

*This blog post is now available in a PDF version as an issue brief here*

On October 16, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously affirmed the lower court’s fair use decision in Authors Guild v. Google, also known as the “Google Books” case. Google, through its Library Project, made digital copies of tens of millions of books submitted to it by libraries. It then included these copies in a search index that displayed “snippets” in response to search queries. The Second Circuit held that the copying of the books and the display of snippets is transformative and a fair use. Furthermore, Google’s provision of digital copies to its partner libraries that submitted the particular work is not an infringement.

This decision follows directly from last year’s positive fair use decision in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust. There were two main differences between the two cases. Google is a commercial party, while HathiTrust is non-profit; and Google displays snippets, while HathiTrust just provides page numbers. Judge Leval, the federal judiciary’s foremost expert on fair use who developed the concept of transformative use, carefully explained why these differences did not affect the fair use analysis.

Background

In 2004, Google initiated its Library Project where it partnered with major research libraries. These libraries submitted books from their collections to Google, which then scanned, indexed and made them machine-readable. Since 2004, Google has scanned and indexed more than 20 million books, most of which are non-fiction and out-of-print. The public can perform searches on the Google Books database, which in response to a query lists books containing the search term. Sometimes links are provided to where a particular book can be purchased or a library where the book can be located. No advertising is displayed to the user of the search function.

If a user clicked on a specific book, Google Books displays a maximum of three “snippets” containing the search term. It does not allow a user to increase the number of snippets through the same search term and also “blacklists” snippets and portions of the book from view. It disabled snippet view for works where the snippet would satisfy the need for the book and, since 2005, excluded the use of snippet view at the request of a rightsholder.

Google allowed its participating libraries to download the digital image and machine-readable versions of the books that a particular library submitted for scanning. The agreements with the libraries required libraries to abide by copyright law in using the downloaded copies and to prevent dissemination to the public at large.

The Authors Guild and several authors sued Google, asserting that the project infringed their copyright. Google filed for summary judgment, arguing that its use was a fair use and in 2013, the district court ruled in favor of Google.

The Plaintiffs, which include three authors (the Second Circuit previously held in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust that the Authors Guild did not have standing to sue on behalf of its members) appealed to the Second Circuit, contending that 1) Google’s copying of entire books and providing snippet views provided a substitute for Plaintiffs’ works and was not transformative; 2) Google’s status as a commercial entity precludes a finding of fair use; 3) Google Books infringes on the Plaintiffs’ derivative rights in search and deprives them of the ability to license their works in search markets; 4) Google’s storage of digital copies expose a risk that Plaintiffs’ books will be made freely or cheaply available on the Internet; and 5) distribution of the digital copies to its library partners could cause Plaintiffs to lose copyright revenues if libraries make these copies available.

Fair Use Analysis

The Second Circuit begins its analysis by examining the purpose of copyright:

The ultimate goal of copyright is to expand public knowledge and understanding, which copyright seeks to achieve by giving potential creators exclusive control over copying of their works, thus giving them a financial incentive to create informative, intellectually enriching works for public consumption. This objective is clearly reflected in the Constitution’s empowerment of Congress “To promote the Progress of Science . . . by securing for limited Times to Authors . . . the exclusive Right to their respective Writings.” U.S. Const. Art. I, §8, cl. 8. Thus, while authors are undoubtedly important intended beneficiaries of copyright, the ultimate primary intended beneficiary is the public, whose access to knowledge copyright seeks to advance by providing rewards for authorship.  

The court notes that the fair use doctrine was developed in order to support this purpose of supporting progress and that this doctrine was eventually codified under Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976. However, as confirmed by the Supreme Court, this statutory codification did not change the judicial doctrine of fair use.

Courts look at four fair use factors in evaluating whether a use is fair: 1) purpose and character of the use; 2) nature of the copyrighted work; 3) amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the whole; and 4) effect on the potential market.

First Factor: Purpose and Character

Turning to the first factor, the court focuses on determining whether the use is transformative while noting that a finding against transformativeness does not preclude a fair use finding. However, “transformative uses tend to favor a fair use finding because a transformative use is one that communicates something new and different from the original or expands its utility, thus serving copyright’s overall objective of contributing to public knowledge.”

The Second Circuit first examined whether the search function has a transformative purpose, quickly noting that in HathiTrust, it found that “the creation of a full-text searchable database is a quintessentially transformative use.” (As noted above, Judge Leval wrote the court’s decision. Judge Leval first coined the phrase “transformative use” in a law review article in 1990. Some have argued that the recent fair use jurisprudence strays from Judge Leval’s vision of transformative use because it has permitted the copying of entire works without transforming the works themselves. Judge Leval’s conclusion that Google’s creation of a full text database lays this criticism to rest.)

Turning to the differences between the Google Books search and HathiTrust, the Second Circuit considered whether the snippet view is also transformative. The court finds that

Snippet view adds important value to the basic transformative search function, which tells only whether and how often the searched term appears in the book. Merely knowing that a term of interest appears in a book does not necessarily tell the searcher whether she needs to obtain the book, because it does not reveal whether the term is discussed in a manner or context falling within the scope of the searcher’s interest.

The court notes that the snippet provides “just enough context” for a user to evaluate whether the book is responsive to her interests, but does not reveal enough to threaten the copyright interest.

Additionally, the court examines the case in light of Google’s status as a commercial entity, which also distinguishes this case from HathiTrust. While the Plaintiffs rely on dicta in a Supreme Court case that commercial uses are presumptively unfair, the Second Circuit states “while the commercial motivation of the secondary use can undoubtedly weigh against a finding of fair use in some circumstances, the Supreme Court, our court, and others have eventually recognized that the Sony dictum was enormously overstated.” The Supreme Court later ruled that Congress could not have intended a rule finding such a presumption and the Second Circuit has “rejected the contention that commercial motivation should outweigh a convincing transformative purpose and absence of significant substitutive competition with the original.” Ultimately, the Second Circuit concludes:

We see no reason in this case why Google’s overall profit motivation should prevail as a reason for denying fair use over its highly convincing transformative purpose, together with the absence of significant substitutive competition, as reasons for granting fair use. Many of the most universally accepted forms of fair use, such as news reporting and commentary, quotation in historical or analytic books, reviews of books, and performances, as well as parody, are all normally done commercially for profit.

Second Factor: Nature of the Work

The Second Circuit notes that the second factor “has rarely played a significant role” in a fair use determination. While courts have suggested that uses of factual works may be more favored than fictional ones, the court finds that the distinction between factual and fictional works is not dispositive in a fair use determination:

While each of the three Plaintiffs’ books in this case is factual, we do not consider that as a boost to Google’s claim of fair use. If one (or all) of the plaintiff works were fiction, we do not think that would change in any way our appraisal. Nothing in this case influences us one way or the other with respect to the second factor considered in isolation.

The court also notes that, in relation to the first factor, “the second factor favors fair use not because Plaintiffs’ works are factual, but because the secondary use transformatively provides valuable information about the original, rather than replicating protected expression in a manner that provides a meaningful substitute for the original.”

Factor Three: Amount and Substantiality Used

As in its decision in HathiTrust, the Second Circuit finds that the amount used was appropriate for the creation of a search database. Here, the court notes that,

Notwithstanding the reasonable implication of Factor Three that fair use is more likely to be favored by the copying of smaller, rather than larger, portions of the original, courts have rejected any categorical rule that a copying of the entirety cannot be a fair use. Complete unchanged copying has repeatedly been found justified as fair use when the copying was appropriate to achieve the copier’s transformative purpose and was done in such a manner that it did not offer a competing substitute for the original.

Thus, “[a]s with HathiTrust, not only is the copying of the totality of the original reasonably appropriate to Google’s transformative purpose, it is literally necessary to achieve that purpose.”

With respect to the amount used with respect to the snippet view, the court acknowledges that “enabling searchers to see portions of the copied texts could have determinative effect on the fair use analysis.” However, Google’s snippet view “does not reveal matter that offers the marketplace a significantly competing substitute for the copyrighted work.” The snippet view contains significant protections including limiting the size of the snippet to one-eight of a page, blacklisting of one snippet per page and one out of every page, providing no more than three snippets for each term searched and excluding certain books, such as dictionaries and cookbooks, from snippet eligibility. As a result, “a searcher cannot succeed, even after long extended effort to multiply what can be revealed, in revealing through a snippet search that could usefully serve as a competing substitute for the original.”

Furthermore,

The blacklisting, which permanently blocks about 22% of a book’s text from snippet view, is by no means the most important of the obstacles Google has designed. While it is true that the blacklisting of 22% leaves 78% of a book theoretically accessible to a searcher, it does not follow that any large part of that 78% is in fact accessible. The other restrictions built into the program work together to ensure that, even after protracted effort over a substantial period of time, only small and randomly scattered portions of a book will be accessible. In an effort to show what large portions of text searchers can read through persistently augmented snippets searches, Plaintiffs’ counsel employed researchers over a period of weeks to do multiple word searches on Plaintiff’s book. In no case were they able to access as much as 16% of the text, and the snippets collected were usually not sequential but scattered randomly throughout the book. 

[. . .] The fragmentary and scattered nature of the snippets revealed, even after a determined, assiduous, time-consuming search, results in a revelation that is not “substantial,” even if it includes an aggregate 16% of the text of a book. If snippet view could be used to reveal a coherent block amounting to 16% of a book, that would raise a very different question beyond the scope of our inquiry.

Thus, the amount used for both the search function and snippet view is appropriate.

Fourth Factor: Effect on the Market

The Second Circuit notes the importance of the fourth fair use factor which “focuses on whether the copy brings to the marketplace a competing substitute for the original, or its derivative, so as to deprive the rights holder of significant revenues because of the likelihood that potential purchasers may opt to acquire in preference to the original.”

With respect to the creation of a search database, the court again references its decision in HathiTrust, which found that search does not serve as a substitute for the original work.

With respect to the snippet views, the court found that this feature of Google Books does not harm the value of the original, due to the fact that snippets provide tiny fragments that are not continuous and, in the aggregate, amount to no more than 16% of a book. Thus, the snippet view “does not threaten the rights holders with any significant harm to the value of their copyrights or diminish their harvest of copyright revenue.” The Second Circuit acknowledges:

We recognize that the snippet function can cause some loss of sales. There are surely instances in which a searcher’s need for access to a text will be satisfied by the snippet view, resulting in either the loss of a sale to that searcher, or reduction of demand on libraries for that title, which might have resulted in libraries purchasing additional copies. But the possibility, or even the probability or certainty, of some loss of sales does not suffice to make the copy an effectively competing substitute that would tilt the weighty fourth factor in favor of the rights holder in the original. There must be a meaningful or significant effect “upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.” 17 U.S.C. § 107(4).

Furthermore, the type of loss of sale envisioned above will generally occur in relation to interests that are not protected by the copyright. A snippet’s capacity to satisfy a searcher’s need for access to a copyrighted book will at times be because the snippet conveys a historical fact that the searcher needs to ascertain. For example, a student writing a paper on Franklin D. Roosevelt might need to learn the year Roosevelt was stricken with polio. By entering “Roosevelt polio” in a Google Books search, the student would be taken to (among numerous sites) a snippet from page 31 of Richard Thayer Goldberg’s The Making of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1981), telling that the polio attack occurred in 1921. This would satisfy the searcher’s need for the book, eliminating any need to purchase it or acquire it from a library. But what the searcher derived from the snippet was a historical fact. Author Goldberg’s copyright does not extend to the facts communicated by his book. It protects only the author’s manner of expression. Hoehling v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 618 F.2d 972, 974 (2d Cir. 1980) (“A grant of copyright in a published work secures for its author a limited monopoly over the expression it contains.”) (emphasis added). Google would be entitled, without infringement of Goldberg’s copyright, to answer the student’s query about the year Roosevelt was afflicted, taking the information from Goldberg’s book. The fact that, in the case of the student’s snippet search, the information came embedded in three lines of Goldberg’s writing, which were superfluous to the searcher’s needs, would not change the taking of an unprotected fact into a copyright infringement.

Even if the snippet reveals some authorial expression, because of the brevity of a single snippet and the cumbersome, disjointed, and incomplete nature of the aggregation of snippets made available through snippet view, we think it would be a rare case in which the searcher’s interest in the protected aspect of the author’s work would be satisfied by what is available from snippet view, and rarer still—because of the cumbersome, disjointed, and incomplete nature of the aggregation of snippets made available through snippet view—that snippet view could provide a significant substitute for the purchase of the author’s book.

Thus, the Second Circuit concludes after evaluating all four fair use factors that Google’s creation of a searchable database and providing the public with snippet views is fair use and not an infringement.

Derivative Works

The Second Circuit rejects the argument that Plaintiffs have a derivative right over the search and snippet view functions, stating that “there is no merit to this argument.” The court points out that copyright “does not include an exclusive right to furnish the kind of information about the works that Google’s programs provide to the public. For substantially the same reasons, the copyright that protects Plaintiffs’ works does not include an exclusive derivative right to supply such information through query of a digitized copy.”

The court similarly dismisses the argument that Google Books harms the existence or potential for paid licensing schemes. While the Plaintiffs cite the Google Books Settlement agreement that was eventually rejected by the district court as evidence for a licensing market, the Second Circuit notes that the settlement would have allowed users to read substantial portions of the books and therefore distinguishable from the current project which “in a non-infringing manner, allow the public to obtain limited data about the content of the book, without allowing any substantial reading of its text.”

The court also finds that there is no unpaid licensing market because the snippets displayed are “arbitrarily selected snippet[s] of text . . . the snippet function does not provide searchers with any meaningful experience of the expressive content of the book. Its purpose is not to communicate copyrighted expression, but rather, by revealing to the searcher a tiny segment surrounding the searched term, to give some minimal contextual information to help the searcher learn whether the book’s use of that term will be of interest to her.” Thus, the court rejects the Plaintiffs’ arguments that Google Books infringes on their derivative rights.

Exposure/Security Risks

Although the Plaintiff’s assertions that Google’s stored digital copies could pose risks if hackers accessed them is “theoretically sound, it is not supported by the evidence.” The court points out that Google’s scans “are stored on computers walled off from public Internet access and protected by the same impressive security measures used by Google to guard its own confidential information. As Google notes, Plaintiffs’ own security expert praised these security systems.”

Distribution to Partner Libraries

The Second Circuit also rejects the notion that Google’s distribution of digital copies to the participant libraries that submitted the particular work is infringement, pointing out that the library is only permitted to use the copy in a non-infringing fair use manner.

The libraries propose to use their digital copies to enable the very kinds of searches that we here hold to be fair uses in connection with Google’s offer of such searches to the Internet public, and which we held in HathiTrust to be fair uses when offered by HathiTrust to its users. The contract between Google and each of the participating libraries commits the library to use its digital copy only in a manner consistent with the copyright law, and to take precautions to prevent dissemination of their digital copies to the public at large.

In these circumstances, Google’s creation for each library of a digital copy of that library’s already owned book in order to permit that library to make fair use through provision of digital searches is not an infringement. If the library had created its own digital copy to enable its provision of fair use digital searches, the making of the digital copy would not have been infringement. Nor does it become an infringement because, instead of making its own digital copy, the library contracted with Google that Google would use its expertise and resources to make the digital conversion for the library’s benefit.

The court acknowledged that while libraries could make infringing uses of these copies, this outcome is “sheer speculation” and there is no evidence on the present record to hold Google liable as a contributory infringer based on such speculation.

Conclusion

The Second Circuit’s decision in the Google Books case is a strong affirmation of fair use and demonstrates the importance of the fair use doctrine in responding to new technological developments. The search and snippet function of Google Books allows for important research, including through text-and-data mining to allow researchers to conduct research that would not be possible without the large searchable database created by Google. Additionally, Google’s digitization of certain works from library collections demonstrates an important partnership, which has allowed libraries to make fair uses of these copies, including to provide access for those who are visually impaired.

The Authors Guild plans to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of the United States, though it is far from clear whether the Supreme Court would grant certiorari in this case. In its litigation with HathiTrust, the Authors Guild decided to settle the preservation issue (the sole outstanding issue after the Second Circuit’s ruling in favor of fair use for the creation of a full-text searchable database and creation of accessible formats for those who are visually impaired or print disabled) and declined to pursue an appeal.

Analysis of the Final TPP (Leaked) Text on Intellectual Property: Mixed Results

*This post is also available as an issue brief here*

On October 5, 2015, the twelve trade ministers of the TPP negotiating parties (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States) announced that they had come to an agreement on the large regional trade agreement that had been under negotiations for the past five years.

While the agreement has been criticized for a number of reasons, it is important to recognize the areas where the agreement has improved from the initial proposals made by the United States in February 2011. Civil society, technology companies and academics have participated throughout the negotiating process to improve the language of the final text and many of these efforts are reflected in the agreement.

Of course, one of the main points of criticism regarding the TPP was the lack of transparency; without the various leaks of the intellectual property chapter throughout the course of the negotiations, substantive debate, criticism and proposed alternatives may not have been possible. It is worth noting that the agreement was signed by the trade ministers of the twelve negotiating parties in Atlanta, GA without a single official release of any chapter of the TPP. Notably, when international agreements are negotiated in multilateral fora such as at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the negotiations are much more transparent and stakeholders have the opportunity to view and substantively comment on the proposals.  Even today, the final text has not been officially released, though Wikileaks has released a leaked copy of the final agreement’s intellectual property chapter.

Improvements in the Text

The final text of the TPP saw improvement in several areas, including the removal of certain provisions.

Removal of the Ban on Parallel Importation

The United States’ initial proposal included a ban on parallel importation, granting authors “the right to authorize or prohibit the importation into that Party’s territory of copies of the work, performance or phonogram made without authorization, or made outside the Party’s territory with the authorization of the author, performer, or producer of the phonogram.” This proposal would have prohibited parallel importation, limiting the application of the first sale doctrine to authorized copies made within the Party’s territory. Thus, a legitimate copy made in another country could not be sold in the United States without the author’s consent.

This proposal was controversial at the time it was introduced as other negotiating parties strongly rely on parallel importation of works. Additionally, during this time a high-profile court case, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, involving this very issue was making its way through the court system ultimately ending up before the Supreme Court of the United States. In that case, an individual purchased lawfully made textbooks in Thailand, where they were less expensive, and resold them in the United States.

In March 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the first sale doctrine applies to lawful copies regardless of their place of manufacture. This ruling clarified that United States law does indeed allow for parallel importation, thus conflicting with the United States’ proposal. Despite this ruling, it took many months and several negotiating rounds for the United States to remove its language banning parallel importation. Ultimately, though, this prohibition was removed and is not in the final text of the agreement.

Removal of Language on Temporary Reproductions

Another area of controversy surrounding the United States’ proposal centered around language granting authors the right to authorize or prohibit reproductions “in any manner or form, permanent or temporary (including temporary storage in electronic form).” Many criticized the inclusion of temporary reproductions, particularly the clarification that it applied to “temporary storage in electronic form” as potentially prohibiting the temporary copies that are constantly made by a computer to read e-mails, store documents, access content, etc. Reference to “temporary reproductions” and “temporary storage in electronic form” is not in the final text, another helpful improvement in the text.

Removal of the Ban on Formalities

The October 2014 leak of the IP chapter, which reflected the state of negotiations as of May 2014, revealed that parties had agreed to new language banning formalities that did not appear in prior leaks. ARL criticized this development noting

This language could be problematic if the United States, or other TPP parties, wanted to re-introduce formalities for copyright protections granted that go beyond minimum international standards. Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante, for example, proposed the re-introduction of formalities for the last twenty years of copyright protection in the United States. If adopted, such a proposal would violate the TPP and subject the United States to investor-state dispute settlement, under which a corporation could sue the Unites States government for failure to comply with the TPP.

However, the August 2015 leak, reflecting the state of negotiations as of May 2015, as well as the final leaked text show that the text was ultimately removed. The removal of this language was a welcome improvement, preserving the ability to re-introduce formalities for protections granted under the TPP that go beyond minimum international standards set by the Berne Convention or TRIPS.

Improvements on Technological Protection Measures

The United States’ initial proposal on technological protection measures (TPMs) included detailed language, including a closed-list set of limitations and exceptions to the anti-circumvention rules. In addition to the very limited set of exceptions, the proposal would have allowed countries to use a three-year rulemaking process, modeled after the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) 1201 rulemaking process, to create additional limitations and exceptions subject to a “substantial evidence” burden. This proposal would not have permitted new permanent limitations and exceptions to the anti-circumvention rules and was heavily criticized, particularly as certain events, such as the Register’s refusal to renew an exemption in 2012 to allow for the unlocking of cell phones, highlighted the absurdity of the process.

The 2014 leak and the final text of the agreement reveal that parties have removed the closed list of limitations and exceptions as well as the rulemaking process. Instead, the text allows parties to provide for limitations and exceptions and to use legislative, regulatory or administrative processes to create exceptions. This language would permit the creation of new permanent limitations and exceptions.

Furthermore, while the language still provides that a violation of the anti-circumvention rules “is independent of any infringement that might occur under the Party’s law on copyright and related rights,” this text could be mitigated by a helpful footnote that reads “A Party may provide that the obligations described in paragraph (ii) with respect to manufacturing, importation, and distribution apply only where such activities are undertaken for sale or rental, or where such activities prejudice the interests of the right holder of the copyright or related right.”

The fact that the United States’ initial proposal in 2011 made circumvention a “separate and independent cause of action” was controversial and makes little sense. Establishing that circumvention is independent of any copyright infringement negatively impacts legitimate, non-infringing circumvention. However, the footnote that appeared in the final text could mitigate the harm of this provision because circumvention for legitimate purposes would not prejudice the interests of the right holder.

Inclusion and Improvements on Text on Limitations and Exceptions

The United States’ initial proposal included placeholder text for limitations and exceptions on copyright. The United States tabled a proposal on limitations and exceptions in July 2012. While proposal was a welcome one, including language referencing balance for purposes such as “criticism, comment, news reporting teaching, scholarship and research” which had never been in any prior United States free trade agreement, there were also criticisms of the proposal which noted that this new paragraph was “subject to and consistent with” the three-step test. Critics pointed out that some specific limitations and exceptions, such as the quotation right under the Berne Convention, are not subject to the three-step test (that limitations and exceptions are confined to 1) certain special cases, 2) the at do not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work, and 3) do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the right holder).

Ultimately, the language regarding limitations and exceptions was improved and clarification was included that the text on the three-step test did not reduce or extend the scope of limitations and exceptions under international agreements including TRIPS, the Berne Convention, and the WIPO Internet Treaties.

The text of the United States’ proposal also improved with respect to the fact that the list of “legitimate purposes” now specifically references “other similar purposes” as well as “access to published works for persons whoa re blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled.” The text also includes a specific footnote recognizing the Marrakesh Treaty and acknowledges that some Parties facilitate the availability of accessible format works beyond the requirements of the Marrakesh Treaty.

Finally, while the language on limitations and exceptions could have been stronger with language mandating that parties achieve a balance or foster a balance, rather than the agreed to language that “Each Party shall endeavor to achieve an appropriate balance in its copyright and related rights system,” the inclusion of the language in the final text is still a success. The United States has now recognized in a free trade agreement the importance of balance in the copyright system. Furthermore, the United States has stated that this language provides “an obligation for Parties to continuously seek to achieve balance in copyright systems,” because the language requires Party to “endeavor to achieve” balance. The words “shall endeavor” do create a mandatory obligation for parties to seek this balance.

Inclusion of this language signals that the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has responded to criticisms that the United States proposals only export rights for rightholders and not our balanced system which includes limitations and exceptions. This language should be included in future trade agreements and USTR should seek to improve upon it in the future by strengthening the language requiring parties to achieve a balance or foster a balance. Despite the fact that the language could have been stronger, its inclusion in the final text still reveals a mandatory obligation for parties and represents a positive development.

Remedies Allow for Judicial Discretion

The final language regarding enforcement also shows areas where the text has improved from the United States’ initial proposal.

For example the final text includes language that replicates text from the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) requiring parties to take proportionality into account. The text reads, “In implementing the provisions of [the enforcement] Section in its intellectual property system, each Party shall take into account the need for proportionality between the seriousness of the intellectual property infringement, and the applicable remedies an penalties, as well as the interests of third parties.” This language on proportionality is a welcome inclusion and would ultimately allow domestic laws to provide judicial authorities discretion in ordering remedies.

Additionally, while the United States’ initial proposal in 2011would have required judges to consider certain measures of damages (“in determining damages for infringement of intellectual property rights, its judicial authorities shall consider, inter alia, the value of the infringed good or service, measured by the suggested retail price or other legitimate measure of value submitted by the right holder”) the final language provides judicial authorities the discretion to consider these measures of damages. The final text provides that “judicial authorities shall have the authority to consider . . .” and this added language “have the authority” changes the text from a mandatory obligation that judges consider these measures of damages to providing them the discretion to do so. This addition is an improvement and consistent with current United States law which permits judicial discretion.

Other provisions on the text on remedies includes similar language, providing that judicial authorities “shall have the authority” to impose certain remedies, but does not actually require that authorities order these remedies. While some have criticized the TPP as prohibiting the Copyright Office’s proposal on orphan works (which is a highly flawed proposal as analyzed here and here), the actual text of the TPP permits considerable discretion and does not actually require authorities to order damages in a particular amount.

General Provisions

As noted in ARL’s analysis of the August 2015 leak, language on general provisions reveal considerable positive developments. The final text includes language provides that the objectives of the agreement are as follows:

The protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technology, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations.

The principles specifically reference the public interest and address the need to prevent abuse of intellectual property by right holders: 

1.  Parties may, in formulating or amending their laws and regulations, adopt measures necessary to protect health and nutrition, and to promote the public interest in sectors of vital importance to their socio­economics and technological development, provided that such measures are consistent with the provisions of this Chapter.

2.  Appropriate measures, provided that they are consistent with the provisions of this Chapter, may be needed to prevent the abuse of intellectual property rights by right holders or the resort to practices which unreasonably restrain trade or adversely affect the international transfer of technology.

The final text also includes a section on “Understandings in respect of this Chapter” which reads as follows:

Having regard to the underlying public policy objectives of national systems, the Parties recognize the need to:

  • promote innovation and creativity;
  • facilitate the diffusion of information, knowledge, technology, culture and the arts; and
  • foster competition and open and efficient markets;

through their intellectual property systems, while respecting the principles of transparency and due process, and taking into account the interests of relevant stakeholders, including rights holders, service providers, users and the public.

The August 2015 leaked text, reflecting the negotiating text as of May 2015, also included language proposed by Chile and Canada “acknowledging the importance of preserving the public domain.” This text was, however, opposed by the United States and Japan and ultimately not included in the agreement. It is extremely unfortunate that the United States and Japan would oppose inclusion of such text.

However, in the section on “Cooperation” the text from the August 2015 leak remains in the final text recognizing the importance of the public domain:

The Parties recognize the importance of a rich and accessible public domain. 

The Parties also acknowledge the importance of information materials, such as publicly accessible databases of registered intellectual property rights that assist in the identification of subject matter that has fallen into the public domain.

While it is disappointing that the United States and Japan opposed the inclusion of a reference to the public domain in the general provisions, the fact that the importance of the public domain is recognized on the section regarding cooperation is still welcome language.

Shortcomings/Areas for Improvement in Future Agreements

Flexibility on ISP Liability

The final language of the agreement does provide for some flexibilities with respect to Internet Service Providers (ISP). While the text, contained in Section I, is modeled off the DMCA and provides for safe harbors for ISPs implementing a notice-and-takedown system, an annex specifically preserves Canada’s notice-and-notice system. The annex provides that the notice-and-takedown safe harbors do not apply to a Party that has implemented a notice-and-notice system instead.

Unfortunately, this flexibility will only be permitted for Canada and not for the other negotiating parties. The language under the annex requires the system to be in place “upon date of agreement in principle of this Agreement,” which occurred when the trade ministers announced the agreement on August 5, 2015. Canada was the only country at that time to have a notice-and-notice system in place.

However, another annex to the intellectual property chapter provides that as an alternative to implementing the article on ISP, parties may instead implement Article 17.11.23 of the US-Chile free trade agreement. Chile’s system involves notice-and-takedown, but involves a judicial order before takedowns are required. Countries may therefore choose between implementing the language in the TPP or the language of the US-Chile trade agreement.

Unfortunate Extension of Copyright Term

Copyright Term Extension

One of the biggest areas of criticism that remains in the final agreement is that the parties settled on a copyright term of life plus seventy years, or seventy years for corporate works. The United States’ 2011 proposal would have set copyright term as the life of the author plus seventy years, or ninety-five (or up to one-hundred twenty years if unpublished) years for corporate works. While countries did not accept the United States’ proposals on corporate works, they did agree to the term of life plus seventy years. Some countries with pre-existing free trade agreements with the United States (Australia, Chile, Peru and Singapore) already had obligations to provide for a period of life plus seventy years and Mexico had an even longer term, which it proposed, of life of the author plus one hundred years.

However, it is highly unfortunate that the other countries ultimately agreed to extend copyright term, given the lack of justification for excessively long terms. The Hargreaves report commissioned by the United Kingdom, for example, points out that economic evidence does not support copyright term extensions. Maria Pallante, Register of Copyrights, noted that a Copyright Office study questioned “whether copyright term should be extended to benefit remote heirs or assignees, ‘long after the purpose of the protection has been achieved.’” Despite the lack of policy justification for these terms and the fact that copyright term extension damages the public domain and increases the orphan works problem, the final text of the agreement reveals that countries must provide for copyright terms that go far beyond the minimum international standards.

After the trade ministers announced an agreement had been reached, New Zealand released a fact sheet on the TPP. This fact sheet estimated that the copyright term extension would cause “significant cost” to New Zealand: “This cost – in terms of foregone savings on books, films, music and other works – increases gradually over 20 years and averages around $55 million a year over the very long term.”

Article QQ.A.10bis, however, does provide that countries that are required to implement copyright term extension do not need to restore protection to subject matter that has fallen into the public domain in its territory as of the date of entry into force of the agreement. The extension will therefore apply only to those works that are still under protection as of the date the agreement enters into force for that country (which will depend on each country’s domestic process for approving the final agreement).

While the United States will not require changes to its domestic laws with respect to copyright term, it is unfortunate that this term is being imposed on other countries when it far exceeds international standards. Brunei, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Vietnam will all be required to increase the copyright terms in their countries. Furthermore, it would be extremely difficult for the United States to revisit this term and reduce copyright term in the United States, even though evidence justifies and supports shorter terms, as the TPP would need to be re-negotiated with all TPP parties.

Conclusion

While there are still areas where the TPP should be criticized and several areas where the language of the TPP could have been better, the final text reveals significant improvements from the United States’ initial proposals. It is possible that some of these proposals resulted from stakeholder engagement, including criticisms of prior texts and proposals which was only made possible through leaks. These improvements and changes in the text over the course of the five years of negotiations reveal the importance of transparency in negotiations.

The TPP will still need to be approved by the domestic procedures set forth in each of the parties. In the United States, Congress will vote under the “fast track” procedures it set when it granted the President trade promotion authority. Congress will be able to approve or reject the agreement in a straight up-down vote, meaning that it cannot amend the agreement. Due to the timing set forth under fast track procedures, a vote in the United States will not occur until 2016. In Canada, a vote will not take place on the TPP until after it concludes its upcoming elections on October 19 and the new Parliament is in place.

Whether or not Congress approves the agreement, the final text of the TPP will likely provide the starting point for future negotiations. USTR has used past agreements, particularly the most recently concluded free trade agreements, as a template for future agreements. The gains made with respect to supporting a balanced copyright system should serve as a basis for additional improvements in the future.

New Advocacy and Policy Update Available

The latest ARL Advocacy and Policy Update (covering mid-August to the beginning of October) is now available.  Previous Advocacy and Policy Updates can be found here.

From the current update’s summary:

With its return from an August recess, the US Congress faces several controversial must-pass bills and other divisive issues with little time to spare prior to the passage of a short-term funding measure for the US Government as the Government’s fiscal year ended on September 30. A short-term funding bill that will fund the Government through mid-December was approved in lieu of another Government shutdown.

The US Senate continues to press ahead for passage of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), a bill to codify the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s 2013 memorandum regarding public access to federally funded research.

The White House is building a pool of prospective candidates for the Librarian of Congress position. With James Billington’s retirement at the end of September, the White House has been reaching out to stakeholders, including ARL, for their input and recommendations. Legislation has been introduced in the Senate to limit the term of the Librarian of Congress to 10 years.

Copyright has been an active area over the past six weeks. Members of the House Judiciary Committee are poised to introduce several bills regarding the future of the US Copyright Office— determining the office’s authority and whether it will remain in the Library of Congress. This may be the first issue that the House considers as it continues its review of the Copyright Act for possible reform. A court ruled that Warner/Chappell Music does not hold a valid copyright to the “Happy Birthday” song lyrics, and there were two positive fair use decisions in Lenz v. Universal and Katz v. Google. The Library Copyright Alliance filed comments on the Copyright Office Notice of Inquiry on Extended Collective Licensing, and the 1201 Digital Millennium Copyright Act rulemaking is still underway.

ARL participated in a number of amicus briefs on a variety of issues. ARL, the American Library Association, Association of College and Research Libraries, and Chief Officers of State Library Agencies filed an amicus brief in support of the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order protecting network neutrality. ARL also joined in an amicus brief in the case Wikimedia v. National Security Agency (NSA), challenging warrantless surveillance and invoking the First Amendment’s protection of privacy.

Congress continues to consider reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, or ECPA and there is widespread support in the House for such reform.

The US Supreme Court has agreed to rehear Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case involving the University of Texas (UT) admissions process, which seeks to improve student body diversity.

On the international front, several additional countries have ratified the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled, with Canada moving closer to ratification of the treaty. Another meeting took place in late September–early October to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a large, regional, trade agreement among 12 countries including Canada and the US. Finally, the “right to be forgotten” online has been upheld in Europe, and French regulators declared that search engines must apply the right to be forgotten across all domains, not just in France or Europe.

TPP Trade Ministers Announce Agreement

On October 5, 2015, the twelve trade ministers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement announced that an agreement had been reached after five years of negotiations.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is a large, comprehensive regional trade agreement in Asia and the Pacific between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States.

The press conference announcing a deal had originally been scheduled for Saturday, October 3, before being delayed several times through Sunday reportedly over obstacles concerning agreements on provisions regarding dairy and protections for “biologic” pharmaceutical products.

The New York Times reported that the text of the final agreement will not be made available for another month.  No official release of any of the text of the TPP has been released to date, though there have been several leaks of various chapters including the Intellectual Property Chapter.  It is disappointing that the lack of transparency continued throughout the negotiations, depriving the public of meaningful opportunity to discuss and debate the TPP on the merits of the texts.

While, based on the various leaks of texts, the copyright provisions and general intellectual property provisions have seen improvements since the United States’ initial proposal was leaked in 2011, there are still several areas of concern including around copyright term (no details regarding the agreed to term have been released as of yet, but the most recent leak revealed discussions over copyright terms of life plus 50, 70 or 100 years) and technological protection measures.  Additionally, while the agreement contains positive language regarding limitations and exceptions, this language appears to be permissive rather than mandatory, in contrast with the provisions granting rights to rightsholders.  (For more, based on the August 2015 leak, see this blog post.)

The final language of the TPP will soon be concluded and each country will then need to go through its own domestic processes to pass the agreement.  In the United States, the TPP will go through the “fast track” authority passed by Congress earlier this year, which includes a 90 day waiting period after the Obama Administration sends the TPP to Congress for approval.  Depending on when the TPP — which has been a controversial issue — is sent to Congress, a vote could come during the height of the United States’ election season.  Canada is currently holding its elections, set for October 19, 2015.  The new Parliament in Canada, once in place, will debate the TPP and vote on the agreement.  Other parties in the agreement will also hold elections over the next year, which could impact both the timing of any final approval as well as substantive debate of the TPP in these countries.

Court Finds Warner Does Not Hold Rights to “Happy Birthday” Song

In the Marya v. Warner/Chappel Music dispute over the copyright status of the song “Happy Birthday,” the District Court for the Central District of California found in its September 22, 2015 opinion that Warner does not hold a valid copyright over the lyrics.

The ruling went through the history of publication of the melody and lyrics to “Happy Birthday,” which uses the same melody and similar lyrics to a children’s song, “Good Morning,” written prior to 1893.  The exact date of the lyrics to “Happy Birthday” were unclear, though references were made to the song since 1901.  While the parties agreed that the melody entered the public domain long ago, they disagree on the status of the copyright of the lyrics to “Happy Birthday.”

The Plaintiffs in the case sought declaratory judgment, arguing the Defendants did not hold the valid copyright on several grounds: the lyrics were written by someone else, the common law copyright in the lyrics were lost due to general publication or abandonment, and that the rights were never transferred to the company Summy Co.  In determining where the burden of proof lies, the district court relied on the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Medtronic, Inc. v. Mirowski Family Ventures which placed the burden of proof on the patent holder in the case.  Thus, the district court noted “just as in Medtronic, there is no reason to relieve the alleged owners of the intellectual property of the usual burden of proof just because they are nominally the defendants in this declaratory judgment.”

The Defendants argued that evidence of registration entitled them to a presumption of validity.  The district court rejected this argument because “Even assuming that the lyrics were printed in the deposit copy for E51990, it is unclear whether those lyrics were being registered, and therefore it is unclear with the Copyright Office determined the validity of Summy Co.’s alleged interest in the lyrics in 1935” because the registration covered a piano arrangement purportedly a derivative version of another melody.  The registration did not make clear that the lyrics were being registered.  The court also found that the question of who wrote the lyrics and whether the lyrics had been divested or abandoned were open ones that would require a trial.

The court did, however, find that a lawsuit between the purported authors (the Hill sisters) of the lyrics and Summy Co. in 1942 revealed evidence that the Hill sisters transferred only the melodies to Summy and did not transfer the lyrics.  Both parties in the 1942 litigation described the transfer agreement as transferring the rights to “piano arrangements,” and the district court in the present case therefore found “it is not logical to infer that rights to ‘piano arrangements’ would include rights to any lyrics or words as well.”  Thus, “Summy Co. never acquired the rights to the Happy Birthday lyrics, Defendants, as Summy Co.’s purported successors-in-interest do not own a valid copyright in the Happy Birthday lyrics.”

Ultimately, the court holds only that Warner does not hold a valid copyright in “Happy Birthday,” not necessarily that the work is in the public domain (a full trial or appeal could find the work to be in the public domain, given that the district court denied motions for summary judgment on the basis that there were other triable issues).  While this ruling is certainly a cause for celebration because the song “Happy Birthday” is free from Warner’s licensing requirements, it also highlights a problem with the extensive copyright terms in the United States.  It can be extremely difficult to determine who holds the copyright — or even if a valid one still exists — given the extremely long copyright terms that last for seventy years beyond the life of the author, or ninety-five years for corporate works.  Copyright terms lasting well beyond the life of the author clearly exacerbates the orphan works problem.

 

Constitution Day: The U.S. Constitution and Copyright Balance

Happy Constitution Day!  September 17th commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787.  Among its many clauses, the Framers of the Constitution provided for an intellectual property clause in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, which grants Congress the power:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

This clause provides the rationale for our intellectual property system.  While the clause is a grant of power to Congress, so too is it an important limitation.  The Supreme Court of the United States has confirmed that the clause “is both a power and a limitation” and, in the patent case, Graham v. John Deere Co., stated that “Congress in the exercise of the patent power may not overreach the restraints imposed by the stated constitutional purpose.”  In copyright cases, the Supreme Court has confirmed that “The immediate effect of our copyright law is to secure a fair return for an author’s creative labor.  But the ultimate aim is, by this incentive, to stimulate artistic creativity for the general public good.”  Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken.

It is important to remember that the Constitution allows Congress to set limited-time monopolies over intellectual property, but ultimately the goal is “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.”

Promoting progress depends on a rich public domain.  The public domain not only allows the public to access books and texts for learning and discovery, but also serves as a storehouse of raw materials from which derivative works are created and new ideas are built.

Unfortunately, copyright term has been extended extensively since the first Copyright Act of 1790 (modeled after the 1710 Statute of Anne) which provided for a 14 year initial term, with the possibility of a 14 year renewal.  Currently, the copyright term is the life of the author plus 70 years or 95 works for corporate works, significantly exceeding the international term of life plus 50 years.  The currently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a large free trade agreement between 12 countries in the Asia and Pacific region, includes proposals to export this term to other countries, but also includes a proposal from Mexico to extend our current term to the life of the author plus 95 years.  Lengthy copyright terms hinder the stated Constitutional rationale for the intellectual property protection by shrinking the public domain and exacerbating the orphan works problem.

In the Eldred v. Ashcroft case, the Supreme Court unfortunately upheld by a 7-2 majority that the Copyright Term Extension Act which set the current copyright term, deferring to the judgment of Congress.  The majority opinion in that case did not, however, address the appropriateness of the copyright term extension.  Justice Breyer, however, in dissent vigorously opposed the extension as a violation of the Constitutional rationale of the intellectual property system:

 

The economic effect of this 20-year extension—the longest blanket extension since the Nation’s founding—is to make the copyright term not limited, but virtually perpetual. Its primary legal effect is to grant the extended term not to authors, but their heirs, estates or corporate successors. And most importantly, its practical effect is not to promote, but to inhibit, the progress of “Science”—by which word the Framers meant learning or knowledge.

While the Eldred case had the unfortunate effect of upholding the current term of life plus 70 years, the Supreme Court has interpreted the intellectual property clause to place limits on copyright protections in other areas.  For example, the Court has ruled that copyright does not protect facts, only expression.  See Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises.  In Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service, the Supreme Court held that “Originality is a Constitutional requirement” for copyright protection and that:

As Justice Brennan has correctly observed, however, this is not “some unforeseen byproduct of a statutory scheme.” It is, rather, “the essence of copyright,” ibid., and a constitutional requirement. The primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors, but “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work. This principle, known as the idea/expression or fact/expression dichotomy, applies to all works of authorship. As applied to a factual compilation, assuming the absence of original written expression, only the compiler’s selection and arrangement may be protected; the raw facts may be copied at will. This result is neither unfair nor unfortunate. It is the means by which copyright advances the progress of science and art. (internal citations omitted).

Aside from copyright term and the scope of copyright, copyright limitations and exceptions can help advance the important Constitutional goal of promoting progress.  The Copyright Act has a number of specific limitations and exceptions as well as a flexible doctrine known as fair use, codified under Section 107.  These limitations and exceptions to copyright allow for the reliance on copyrighted works without permission of the rightholder.  Fair use is a critical right of users, allowing copyright law the flexibility to adapt to evolving technologies and promoting the progress of science.

The Supreme Court in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose noted that fair use supports the Constitutional purpose of copyright:

The fair use doctrine thus “permits [and requires] courts to avoid rigid application of the copyright statute when, on occasion, it would stifle the very creativity which the law is designed to foster.” . . . The goal of copyright, to promote science and the arts, is generally furthered by the creation of transformative works.  Such works thus lie at the hart of the fair use doctrine’s guarantee of breathing space within the confines of copyright . . . (internal citations omitted).

In addition to supporting the intellectual property clause of the U.S. Constitution, fair use also provides an important accommodation to the guarantee of freedom of speech in the First Amendment.  In the Eldred v. Ashcroft case, the Supreme Court confirmed that fair use serves as a “First Amendment safeguard.”

In addition to spurring the creation and publication of new expression, copyright law contains built-in First Amendment accommodations.  First, it distinguishes between ideas and expression and makes only the latter eligible for copyright protection . . . Second, the “fair use” defense allows the public to use not only facts and ideas contained in a copyrighted work, but also expression itself in certain circumstances.

The Constitution’s intellectual property clause grants Congress the power to permit limited time monopolies on copyright, but also mandates balance in the copyright system.  The ultimate goal of copyright is to promote progress and advance the public good.  Thus, the Supreme Court has interpreted the intellectual property clause to limit copyright in many ways, by distinguishing between facts and expression and requiring some degree of originality for copyright protection.  While copyright and the First Amendment right to freedom of speech could potentially be in tension with each other, the fair use doctrine provides an important safeguard to both accommodate the rights of users and promote the progress of science.  In celebrating Constitution Day, celebrate that the Constitutional rational for the U.S. intellectual property system is inherently grounded in the concept of balance: providing an incentive to authors, but ultimately advancing the general public good.