Tag Archives: copyright week

Finding Fair Use in Unexpected Places

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 theme is: 21st Century Creators: Copyright law should account for the interests of all creators, not just those backed by traditional copyright industries. YouTube creators, remixers, fan artists and independent musicians (among others) are all part of the community of creators that encourage cultural progress and innovation.

*This is a guest blog post by Jonathan Band, policybandwidth*

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In December 2016, strong endorsements of fair use appeared in somewhat unexpected places.

First, the Joint Strategic Plan (“JSP”) released by the Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator on December 12, 2016, stated that nothing in the JSP

should be interpreted as limiting the scope of exceptions and limitations, such as fair use, under U.S. copyright law. To the contrary, the basic principles that have permitted the Internet to thrive must be safeguarded, and the Strategic Plan expressly recognizes and celebrates advancements in technology. The way people use and access content – which has led to new and innovative uses of media (e.g., remixes and mashups involving music, video and the visual arts), and fair use, for example – will undoubtedly continue to evolve. We must work to foster creativity, understanding the role of exceptions and limitations as not only part of our body of laws, but as an important part of our culture. Indeed, it is the combination of strong copyright rights with a balance between the protection of rights and exceptions and limitations that encourages creativity, promotes innovation, and ensures our freedom of speech and creative expression are respected.

The JSP concludes this discussion by observing that “IP enforcement options must be crafted to allow for effective measures against actors that unlawfully prey on the works of rights holders, while ensuring that enforcement activities do not affect lawful activity.”

Second, the Copyright Office, in its December 15, 2016 report on software enabled consumer products, noted that “courts repeatedly have used the fair use doctrine to permit copying necessary to enable the creation of interoperable software products.” In support of this declaration, the report discussed the decisions in Atari v. Nintendo, Sega v. Accolade, and Sony v. Connectix, where the courts found that fair use excused the copying performed during the course of reverse engineering. The report added that “the case law generally holds that intermediate copying for purposes of reverse engineering and creation of interoperable products is, in most cases, a fair use.”

The report concluded its discussion of fair use by stating that “proper application of these principles should ensure that copyright law preserves the ability to create interoperable products and services.” In support of this statement, the report quoted the Ninth Circuit in Sega v. Accolade stating that “an attempt to monopolize the market by making it impossible for others to compete runs counter to the statutory purpose of promoting creative expression and cannot constitute a strong equitable basis for resisting the invocation of the fair use doctrine.”

Third, in an amicus brief it filed in Georgia State University electronic reserves case on December 9, 2016, the Copyright Alliance stated that it “is a staunch supporter of fair use principles, which allow for copyright to achieve it purpose without undermining the incentive to create. Its members regularly rely on these principles to create new, expressive, transformative works, consistent with the Copyright Act’s inherent purpose.”

Fair use is often referred to as a “user’s right.” But as these statements correctly indicate, fair use is a creator’s right as well. Fair use is essential to the creation of new works in all forms, including books, films, music, and software.

Access to Text Provides Meaningful Transparency

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.

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Today’s theme is Transparency and Representation: Copyright policy must be set through a participatory, democratic, and transparent process. It should not be decided through back room deals, secret international agreements, or unilateral attempts to apply national laws extraterritorially.

Transparency is critical in understanding what laws may be created that will affect the public. For years, the United States has been involved in negotiated trade agreements in secret, without giving the public ample opportunity to make comments and engage in a meaningful way.  ARL has blogged about the concerns around the lack of transparency in trade negotiations many times in the past, noting that this is a primary failing of the negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other agreements, resulting in a lack of democratic process.  Although USTR has claimed transparency due to the opportunities to provide stakeholder presentations at various negotiations round, the secrecy of the negotiating texts and proposals made it impossible to actually give meaningful engagement.  Unlike the EU, for example, in the TTIP negotiations, USTR has not released draft textual proposals.

In 2016, ARL joined a coalition making critical recommendations for the United States Trade Representative Open Government Plan.

  1. Publish U.S. textual proposals on rules in ongoing international trade negotiations: USTR should immediately make available on its website the textual proposals related to rules that it has already tabled to its negotiating partners in the context of the TTIP, TiSA, and any other bilateral, regional, or multilateral trade negotiation it undertakes.
  2. Publish consolidated texts after each round of ongoing negotiations: USTR should impose as a prerequisite to any new or continuing trade negotiations that all parties agree to publish consolidated draft texts on rules after each negotiating round.
  3. Appoint a “transparency officer” who does not have structural conflicts of interest in promoting transparency at the agency.

These are the critical steps that USTR should take in negotiating trade agreements, whether the government is negotiating new agreements or, as President-elect Trump has promised to do, revisiting old agreements. The textual proposals are key to understanding what is being negotiated. While fact sheets may be useful, they are no substitute for the actual language of the texts which are highly technical and nuanced. As noted in ARL’s analysis of the final TPP text, there were significant improvements in the text from earlier proposals. Some of these improvements may have been made possible through the input of civil society and academics, but these comments were only possible due to access to leaked text.

To Kill A Mockingbird Remains Under Copyright

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.

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It’s Copyright Week once again and today’s theme is Building and Defending the Public Domain: The public domain is our cultural commons and a crucial resource for innovation and access to knowledge. Copyright policy should strive to promote, and not diminish, a robust, accessible public domain.

One of my favorite and least favorite things to do each year in January is to check out Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain and see what would have entered into the public domain, were it not for the changes to copyright term in the 1976 Copyright Act and the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act. I find some morbid curiosity in looking to see what could have entered the public domain while mourning the fact that these great copyrighted works will remain under protection for another forty years. While most of the works covered in the Center for the Study of the Public Domain’s yearly list are well-known and the rightholder would presumably be easy to find, there are many more works that are orphans because of the lengthy term. The current copyright term significantly damages the public domain and raises the costs of access to knowledge.

As always, this year’s list has so many wonderful classics and well-known works, including Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue fish, and Jean-Paul Sartre’s Critique de la raison dialectique. Aside from these books, there are a number of classic films and music that are going to remain under copyright until 2056 rather than enter into the public domain now. To Kill a Mockingbird is a perfect example of the damage these copyright terms have; last year, I noted the swift action by Lee’s estate, weeks after her death, issuing a notice halting publication of the mass market version (also known as the “school” version) of the book (note that HarperCollins announced it would offer a discounted version to school purchasers — but not student purchasers — after a backlash against the elimination of the cheaper mass market publication).

Aside from these great books (the blog post also highlights films and music that would have entered the public domain), one of the notable points is that many of the scientific advances published in 1960 that is still copyrighted and behind paywalls:

1960 was another significant year for science. Max Perutz and Sir John Kendrew published articles on the structure of hemoglobin and the structure of myoglobin, respectively, and Robert Burns Woodward published an article describing a total synthesis of chlorophyll. (All three later won Nobel Prizes in Chemistry.) Theodore Maiman demonstrated the first working laser, a ruby laser. And the US launched its first successful weather satellite, TIROS-1.

If you follow the links above (and you do not have a subscription or institutional access), you will see that these 1960 articles are still behind paywalls. You can purchase the individual articles from the journal Nature for $32. A distressing number of scientific articles from 1960 require payment or a subscription or account, including those in major journals such as Science and JAMA. And the institutional access that many top scientists enjoy is not guaranteed—even institutions such as Harvard have considered canceling their subscriptions because they could no longer afford the escalating prices of major journal subscriptions.

It’s remarkable to find scientific research from 1960 hidden behind publisher paywalls. Thankfully, some publishers have made older articles available in full online, so that you can read them, even though it may still be illegal to copy and distribute them. In addition, some older articles have been made available on third party websites, but this is not a stable solution for providing reliable access to science. Third party postings can be difficult to find or taken down, links can get broken, and would-be posters may be deterred by the risk of a lawsuit. Under the pre-1978 copyright term, all of this history would be free to scholars, students, and enthusiasts.

With the fast pace of scientific and technological advances, it seems crazy that scientific research published 56 years ago remains behind paywalls.  The public domain is critical to promoting advances in culture and science, it is the very foundation of the Constitutional goal “to promote the progress of science and the useful arts.” It is a shame to see our current copyright terms restrict the rate at which works enter the public domain.

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.

 

Fair Use in 2015 and A Look Ahead at 2016

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 “Fair Use Rights: For copyright to achieve its purpose of encouraging creativity and innovation, it must preserve and promote ample breathing space for unexpected and innovative uses.”

Fair use is a critical right and the most important limitation on the rights of the copyright holder. It permits the use of copyrighted material without permission from the rightholder under certain circumstances and has been called the “safety valve” of U.S. copyright law. Fair use is a broad and flexible doctrine that is responsive to change and can accommodate new technologies and developments.  Notably, fair use is relied upon by everyone, including both users of copyrighted content as well as rights holders. This critical doctrine provides essential balance

Below are five news highlights on fair use from 2015 as well as my five favorite fair use resources created in 2015 (created for Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week 2015).

Five Fair Use Highlights from 2015:

  1. Second Circuit Affirms Fair Use in Google Books Case.  In October 2015, the Second Circuit released its unanimous opinion, authored by Judge Leval, affirming the lower court’s fair use decision in Authors Guild v. Google, also known as the “Google Books” case.  The Second Circuit held that Google’s copying of books and display of snippets in a search index is transformative and a fair use.  This 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, the Second Circuit found that Google’s provision of digital copies to its partner libraries that submitted the particular work is not an infringement.  This 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.
  2. Ninth Circuit Rules Fair Use Must Be Considered Before DMCA Takedown Notices Sent.  In September 2015, the Ninth Circuit ruled in Lenz v. Universal Music, also known as the “Dancing Baby” case that “copyright holders must consider fair use before sending a takedown notification, and that failure to do so raises triable issues as to whether the copyright holder formed a subjective good faith belief that the use was not authorized by law.”  In its reasoning, the Ninth Circuit confirmed that fair use is a right: “Fair use is not just excused by the law, it is wholly authorized by the law . . . The statute explains that the fair use of a copyrighted work is permissible because it is a non-infringing use.”
  3. YouTube Announces It Will Defend Some Creators’ Fair Use Claims.  In November 2015, YouTube announced that it will protect “some of the best examples of fair use on YouTube” by defending some creators in copyright litigation.  YouTube pledged to indemnify some of its creators whose fair use videos are subject to takedown notices for up to $1 million in legal costs if the takedown results in a copyright infringement lawsuit. This announcement is significant given that fair use provides essential balance to the copyright system, allowing for transformative uses including parody, commentary, criticism and innovation and videos posted to YouTube often rely on this important doctrine.
  4. Final Text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement Includes Language on Limitations and Exceptions.  In October 2015, the twelve negotiating parties (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam) announced agreement on the TPP, concluding five years of negotiations.  Although the final copyright provisions of the TPP had mixed results and ARL was disappointed by a number of the provisions and the lack of transparency during the negotiations, one of the positive aspects of the agreement was the inclusion and improvements in the final text on limitations and exceptions. The final text included language based off part of the United States’ fair use provision, with an addition for those with print disabilities, requiring “due consideration to legitimate purposes such as, but not limited to: criticism; comment; news reporting; teaching, scholarship, research, and other similar purposes; and facilitating access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.”  The text confirms that the exceptions can apply “in the digital environment” as well as to uses with “commercial aspects.”  Inclusion of this language is significant.  While the final language could have been strengthened further, the final text still provides an obligation for parties to seek a balance and can be used as a basis for stronger language in future agreements.  As noted by Jonathan Band in a paper exploring the evolution of the limitations and exceptions over the course of the TPP negotiations, “The incorporation of the non-exclusive list of legitimate purposes from 17 U.S.C. § 107 provides TPP countries a powerful basis for concluding that this balance is best achieved through the adoption of an open-ended flexible exception like fair use.”
  5. Authors Guild and HathiTrust settle last remaining issue (preservation); Second Circuit decision strongly affirming fair use stands.  While the Second Circuit’s decision in the HathiTrust case was released in June 2014, the court did not resolve the issue of preservation, sending that issue back to the district court.  In January 2015, the parties entered a settlement on the sole issue remaining issue, ending the litigation in a victory for HathiTrust and fair use.  The Second Circuit’s decision found that creation of a full-text search database and providing access to the print disabled constituted fair use.  In January 2015, however, the defendant libraries stipulated that they complied with Section 108(c) of the Copyright Act and agreed that for a period of five years, if they do not comply with the stipulation, it will notify the Authors Guild, “which, although not a Remaining Plaintiff in this Action, will accept notice.”  Authors Guild released a statement after the settlement, noting that it would not seek an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Five Great Fair Use Resources from 2015:

  1. Fair Use Fundamentals Infographic.  In celebration of Fair Use Week 2015, ARL created this infographic explaining that fair use is a right, is vitally important, is for everybody and is everywhere.
  2. A Day in the Life of a Legislative Assistant.  Jonathan Band authored this document, giving a sample day in the life of a legislative assistant.  This sample day shows just how often fair use is relied upon on a daily basis.
  3. Video: Fair Use and Technology.  Fred von Lohmann explains how fair use is essential to every day technology and how we encounter it on a daily basis.
  4. Podcast: Fair Use Protects Culture From Copyright, Not the Other Way Around.  TechDirt created a great podcast devoted to the important doctrine of fair use and how it provides an essential balance to the copyright system.
  5. 12 Fair Use Myths and Facts.  For Fair Use Week 2015, ARL also produced a “Myths and Facts” document on fair use, covering twelve myths about what fair use is and how it can be used.

So what’s next for fair use in 2016?

First, a reminder that Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week 2016 is quickly approaching and will take place from February 22-26, 2016.  A number of organizations and institutions are already planning to participate and have great events planned.  ARL will be creating a new infographic, hosting blog posts, and posting new videos on fair use.  For more information on how to participate or to see the great resources from last year’s celebration, visit the Fair Use Week website.

Additionally, the Authors Guild’s Google Books case may not be over as the Authors Guild filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court on December 31, 2015.  However, the Authors Guild’s petition does not appear to be a particular strong one.  Despite the Authors Guild’s claims that there is a circuit split on the meaning of transformativeness, it is not clear that the six circuits cited have actually split on the issue as the facts of the cases differ significantly.  Furthermore, the argument that the Second Circuit has shifted to a one-factor test is clearly unsupported by the court’s October decision; the Second Circuit carefully analyzes all four factors.

In fact, Professor Jane Ginsburg noted in her article, Google Books and Fair Use: From Implausible to Inevitable? that the Google Books decision is probably not worthy of Supreme Court review.  She stated that the decision “probably surprised no one” and that “courts came to interpret Campbell’s reference to ‘something new, with a further purpose’ to encompass copying that does not add ‘new expression,’ so long as the copying gives the prior work ‘new meaning.’  Fair use cases began to drift from ‘transformative work’ to ‘transformative purpose,’ in the latter instance, copying of an entire work, without creating a new work, could be excused, particularly if the court perceived a sufficient public benefit in the appropriation.” Ginsburg acknowledges that courts have interpreted transformativeness to include a transformative purpose and does not cite any circuit split on this issue.  She also pointed out that the Second Circuit’s opinion was restrained and did not expand the fair use doctrine.  If the Supreme Court declines to hear the Google Books case, the Second Circuit’s decision will stand.

Additionally, as noted yesterday, the Copyright Office has issued a notice of a study the 1201 rulemaking process which creates exemptions on a three-year cycle to allow for circumvention of technological protection measures.  The exemptions requested during each cycle represent non-infringing uses, such as those that would operate under fair use in the analog world (that is, without the digital locks placed on digital copies).  The notice of inquiry includes a number of questions that are highly relevant to fair use.  For example:

1. Please provide any insights or observations regarding the role and effectiveness of the prohibition on circumvention of technological measures in section 1201(a).

[. . .]

3. Should section 1201 be adjusted to provide for presumptive renewal of previously granted exemptions—for example, when there is no meaningful opposition to renewal—or otherwise be modified to streamline the process of continuing an existing exemption? If so, how?

[. . .]

8. Please assess whether the existing categories of permanent exemptions are necessary, relevant, and/or sufficient. How do the permanent exemptions affect the current state of reverse engineering, encryption research, and security testing? How do the permanent exemptions affect the activities of libraries, archives, and educational institutions? How might the existing permanent exemptions be amended to better facilitate such activities?

9. Please assess whether there are other permanent exemption categories that Congress should consider establishing—for example, to facilitate access to literary works by print-disabled persons?

 

While these are important questions and it is good to see that the Copyright Office is at least considering the idea of permanent exemptions and a streamlined process, these questions highlight the fundamental flaw of the 1201 rulemaking process.  As noted by the Library Copyright Alliance’s statement for the Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on 1201 in September 2014:

The fact that every three years the blind need to expend scarce resources to petition the Librarian of Congress to renew their exemption—or that libraries and educators have to seek renewal of the film clip exemption every three years—demonstrates the fundamental flaw in section 1201. That flaw is that section 1201 could be interpreted to prohibit the circumvention of a technological protection measure even for the purpose of engaging in a lawful use of a work. Congress should adopt the approach proposed by the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 and its predecessors, attaching liability to circumvention only if it enables infringement.

Fair use should apply equally in the digital world and technological protection measures should not be used to limit the fair use right.  The fact that every three years, proponents of exemptions must use a great deal of time and resources to seek renewal of or a grant of exemptions to anti-circumvention rules to exercise the fair use rights is problematic and inefficient.

 

1201 Rulemaking for a New Era?

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 “You Bought It, You Own It: Copyright policy should foster the freedom to truly own your stuff: to tinker with it, repair it, reuse it, recycle it, read or watch or launch it on any device, lend it, and then give it away (or re-sell it) when you’re done.”

*Today’s post is brought to you by guest blogger Caile Morris, ARL Law and Policy Fellow*

Every three years, the Copyright Office facilitates a rulemaking process, which considers potential exceptions to the Section 1201 prohibition of circumvention of technological protection measures (TPMs) under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA). During this process, the Register of Copyrights conducts the rulemaking proceeding and consults with the National Telecommunications and Information Association (NTIA), making a final recommendation to the Librarian of Congress. In plain terms, this means the Copyright Office considers petitions for exemptions that allow for things like professors using video clips from Blu-Ray discs when teaching their classes, or for the print-disabled to make e-books accessible. The Office is currently undertaking a study to consider the practical application of Section 1201, including the triennial rulemaking process, to see what improvements might be made.

In the largest proceeding thus far, the 2015 Triennial Rulemaking also ranged quite far from the area of copyright, considering matters that would fit better at proceedings run by agencies like the Department of Transportation or the Environmental Protection Agency. For example, one class of works proposed for an exemption included computer programs that control motorized land vehicles, including those in cars, which if adopted would allow owners to circumvent TPMs in order to make repairs or modifications to those programs. The copyright implications of circumventing the TPMs in this software, while present, pales in comparison to implications for auto manufacturers, the Department of Transportation, and most importantly the users attempting to “tinker” with their lawfully-purchased vehicles.

The proceeding also continues to perpetuate the fatal flaw in Section 1201 – exemptions are requested for uses that would all be considered non-infringing if these same copyrighted works were analog and did not have TPMs.  ARL, as part of the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), filed comments for the record at a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in September 2014 expanding on this issue explaining “that flaw is that section 1201 could be interpreted to prohibit the circumvention of a technological protection measure even for the purpose of engaging in a lawful use of a work.” LCA has also filed petitions in numerous triennial rulemakings, and expounded the absurdities of the process:

Although the section 1201 rulemaking process is legal theatre, the cost of admission is extremely high, particularly for nonprofit organizations. An entity seeking an exemption must: 1) assemble the evidence to support an exemption; 2) prepare a written request that includes the text of the proposed exemption, an argument in favor of the exemption, and a recitation of the relevant facts; 3) prepare a written reply to oppositions to the request; 4) participate in a hearing in Washington D.C.; and 5) prepare a written response to the Copyright Office’s follow-up questions. From start to finish, the process can take more than a year.

In addition to being burdensome, expensive, long and often frustrating, this process is often confusing to the public that it is meant to benefit. The language of the exemptions that result from each rulemaking has become incredibly intricate and detailed. The beneficiaries of these exemptions may not be sure they are using the exemptions correctly, and thus would not be able to put stock in the legality of their activities. So much for “you bought it, you own it” victories won in this arena being easily applicable in the real world.

The Section 1201 study being undertaken by the Copyright Office seeks to learn more about the effectiveness of the role of the anti-trafficking provisions, permanent exemptions, and the requirements of the triennial rulemakings themselves, to name a few issues.   In particular, the Office asks for written comments regarding such questions as “[h]ow should section 1201 accommodate interests that are outside of core copyright concerns . . .?,” and “. . .[h]ow do the permanent exemptions affect the activities of libraries, archives, and educational institutions? How might the existing permanent exemptions be amended to better facilitate such activities?”

A question from the Copyright Office of particular interest to the library community asks commenters to “assess whether there are other permanent exemption categories that Congress should consider establishing – for example to facilitate access to literary works by print-disabled persons?” This particular exemption has been granted in every rulemaking* since 2003, and in the 2015 Rulemaking, this petition was met without opposition. This is precisely the kind of exemption that should not have to go through this arduous process anew every three years.

Indeed, in Author’s Guild, Inc. v. HathiTrust, the Second Circuit confirmed that creating a copy of a copyrighted work for the convenience of a blind person is fair use, regardless of other accommodations found under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the Chafee Amendment to the Copyright Act, found at 17 U.S.C. § 121:

The House Committee Report that accompanied codification of the fair use doctrine in the Copyright Act of 1976 expressly stated that making copies accessible “for the use of blind persons” posed a “special instance illustrating the application of the fair use doctrine” . . . . The Committee noted that “special [blind-accessible formats] . . . are not usually made by the publishers for commercial distribution” . . . . We believe this guidance supports a finding of fair use in the unique circumstances presented by print-disabled readers.

As LCA noted, “[t]he fact that every three years the blind need to expend scarce resources to petition the Librarian of Congress to renew their exemption . . . demonstrates the fundamental flaw in section 1201.” This, and other exemptions that have been continuously renewed, provide ample fodder for comments on expanding the current permanent exemption class.

The Copyright Office is accepting comments through February 25, and reply comments through March 25. More information on participation and specific will be posted on the Office’s website by early February. Comments urging the Office to rethink the Rulemaking in order to preserve the resources wasted on a repetitive process and making the exemptions easier for the beneficiaries to understand will help to ensure that non-infringing lawful use can continue.

*During the 2010 rulemaking process, the Register of Copyrights recommended that the exemption for those with print disabilities be denied despite the fact that the NTIA recommended renewal. The Librarian of Congress, however, overruled the Register of Copyrights and granted the exemption.

 

Nothing New Under the Sun

It’s Copyright Week, a series of activities and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, addressing what’s at stake and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation. Today’s topic is “Building and Defending a Robust Public Domain: The public domain is our cultural commons and a public trust. Copyright policy should seek to promote, and not diminish, this crucial resource.”

*Today’s post is brought to you by guest blogger Caile Morris, ARL Law and Policy Fellow*

In support of today’s theme, Jonathan Band and Caile Morris have created a document, entitled “Nothing New Under the Sun” providing examples of famous creators throughout the history of art who have built their works on existing works. The purpose of the document is to demonstrate the importance of copyright limitations to the creative process.

Proponents of strong copyright protection stress the significance of an author’s contribution to the artistic and economic value of a work. In this vision, creativity starts with an author’s spark of genius and is realized through the artist’s talent and hard work.

To be sure, great works reflect their authors’ genius, talent, and hard work. But authors do not create in a vacuum. The raw material for their creativity is existing works. Artists borrow themes, styles, structures, tropes, and phrases from works that inspire them. And if copyright overprotects existing works—if it restricts authors’ ability to build on the creative output of authors who came before them—it will be more difficult for authors to create.

Unfortunately, copyright owners and policymakers often undervalue the importance of this use of source material. They focus on rights, but not on the critical limitations to those rights that enable creativity to flourish. These limitations include: the idea/expression dichotomy and the related doctrines of merger and scenes a faire; fair use; and copyright term, which results in works entering the public domain. The failure to recognize how essential limitations are to new creative expression results in bad policy, such as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (adding 20 years to the copyright term) or the absence of mandatory exceptions and limitations in free trade agreement.

Hopefully, these examples of great works derived from earlier works will remind copyright owners and policymakers of the importance of copyright limitations and exceptions to the creation of new works.

Copyright Term Extension and the Public Domain

It’s 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 “Building and Defending a Robust Public Domain: The public domain is our cultural commons and a public trust. Copyright policy should seek to promote, and not diminish, this crucial resource.”

The current copyright term in the United States goes well beyond the international standard of life of the author plus fifty years and is now set at life of the author plus seventy years, or ninety-five years for corporate works. This term is unacceptably long and does significant damage to the public domain, depriving the public of a storehouse of raw materials from which individuals can draw from to learn and create new ideas or works.

Each year, Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain does a roundup of everything that could have entered the public domain if the term prior to the 1976 act, which was set at twenty-eight years plus another twenty-eight years if renewed. The term has been changed twice since then, once by the 1976 Copyright Act which set the term at life of the author plus fifty years, then again in 1998 to the current term.

The list of works that failed to enter into the public domain as a result of these two changes to the copyright term is always an impressive one. This year’s highlights include works like T.H. White’s The Once in Future King, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart; or Michael Bond’s, A Bear Called Paddington. These works will go into the public domain in 2054. Notably, because of the Copyright Term Extension Act, the public domain has essentially been frozen; works under copyright at the date of implementation of the act in 1998 retained their copyright. The public domain will not see any new works due to expired copyrights until 2019.

The United States’ copyright term is unacceptably long and does not represent the international standard. Most countries in the world adhere to the Berne Convention standard of life of the author plus fifty years. In fact, where copyright term exceeds this international standard, there have been calls to reduce the term.

Many stakeholders, including the Library Copyright Alliance, called for a reduction of copyright term in submissions for the EU Copyright Consultation. The draft report on the Evaluation of the EU Copyright Directive was recently released and “Calls on the Commission to harmonise the term of protection of copyright to a duration that does not exceed the current international standards set out in the Berne Convention.”  If accepted, harmonization of copyright term would actually result in a reduction of term for many countries to life plus fifty years.

Reduction of copyright term makes good policy sense as long terms restrict access to knowledge and exacerbate the problem of orphan works. Furthermore, the economic evidence does not justify the current copyright term. In fact, the UK-commissioned independent review by Ian Hargreaves found:

Economic evidence is clear that the likely deadweight loss to the economy exceeds any additional incentivising effect which might result from the extension of copyright term beyond its present levels. This is doubly clear for retrospective extension to copyright term, given the impossibility of incentivising the creation of already existing works, or work from artists already dead. Despite this, there are frequent proposals to increase term . . . The UK Government assessment found it to be economically detrimental. An international study found term extension to have no impact on output.

Such lengthy copyright terms make little sense, particularly in light of today’s digital environment. Works are often published on the Internet, resulting in increasingly ephemeral content. Such content may have little to no economic value to the copyright owner, yet still remains under copyright protection until seventy years after the author has died. Policymakers should carefully consider the economic evidence and rationale before extending copyright terms and diminishing the public domain.

Trade, Transparency and Democratic Values

It’s 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.”

Tomorrow, intellectual property negotiators will begin meeting in secret to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a large regional trade agreement that currently has twelve negotiating parties: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States. As noted in last year’s post for Copyright Week’s Transparency Day, transparency in policymaking is essential to upholding democratic ideals. Without access to information about the negotiations and texts, the public is unable to substantively comment and address areas of concerns.

Despite the fact that the TPP has been negotiated for the past five years, none of the negotiating parties has officially released proposals or text. The only texts that have been made available resulted from leaks, the most recent occurring on October 16, 2014. There have been many areas of concern with respect to the copyright provisions in the TPP. While the most recent leak shows improvements in some areas (such as eliminating the three-year rulemaking procedure for creating exemptions to anti-circumvention laws), it also revealed new potential issues (such as possibly preventing the reintroduction of copyright formalities for the last twenty years of copyright protection in the United States). Yet the public is only alerted to these potential problems by relying on leaks, which do not occur on a regular basis.

Furthermore, while governments made information about earlier rounds of negotiations public and stakeholders were invited to give presentations or interact with negotiators, recent meetings have become more secretive. The last time stakeholders were provided the opportunity to present was in August 2013 even though negotiations have continued on a regular basis since then. The website of the Office of the United States Trade Representative does not give any details or even acknowledge the meetings that will take place over the course of the next two weeks.

As the TPP is reportedly in its final stages, it appears that negotiations with the European Union on a regional trade agreement known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) seems to be quickly advancing. After several rounds of negotiations, texts have already been proposed in some areas. Unlike the negotiations in the TPP, however, much more information has been publicly released on the TTIP.

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 reveals 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.”

Secrecy is a poor model for policymaking. Even when an agency or government asserts that it is transparent because it has released statements or described what proposals have been made, as noted in a letter commenting on proposed text in the TPP, “informed commentary is possible only with respect to actual text, not descriptions of text.” The specific language, structure and details of a proposal are critical in understanding the potential impacts. USTR should consider following the lead of the EU and release its negotiating proposals in the TTIP as they become available.

Similarly, TPP countries should agree to release the negotiating texts to allow for informed participation. Releasing the negotiating texts of trade agreements has precedent; the text of the Free Trade Area of the Americas was released and the US government solicited comment on the negotiating text.  Library associations noted their appreciation for the open process for commenting on the Free Trade Area of the Americas.  Participation in the democratic process is dependent on access to information; without being able to read the texts these values are threatened.

Of course, even if the TPP text is released, another danger remains: Congress may choose to give the Obama Administration “trade promotion authority” also known as “fast track authority.”  If “fast track” is approved Congress will not have the ability to change the agreement and can only approve or reject the agreement on a straight up-down vote, meaning that it cannot amend the agreement.  Agreements that have reached Congress through fast track authority have never been rejected.  This delegation of authority further threatens democratic principles by reducing the ability of elected officials to meaningfully address concerns that may arise from portions of the agreement.

New Fair Use Cases for 2015: Rosen v. eBay and Fox v. DISH

It’s 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 “Fair Use Rights: For copyright to achieve its purpose of encouraging creativity and innovation, it must preserve and promote ample breathing space for unexpected and innovative uses.”

In 2014, courts gave us some wonderful fair use cases, including several dealing with creation of searchable databases. In Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, for example, the Second Circuit strongly affirmed the right of fair use, finding in favor of HathiTrust’s creation of a full text search database and provision of accessible formats for the print disabled. In the long-awaited opinion White v. West Publishing, the Southern District of New York affirmed that ingesting briefs into a search database was a new use with a different character from the original briefs. Fox News v. TVEyes provided yet another case in which aggregating copyrighted works into a searchable database, this one dealing with video and audio works rather than text, was affirmed as fair use. For more fair use cases from last year, Dan Nabel, guest posting on Eric Goldman’s blog, has a great roundup of the top ten cases in 2014.

Just weeks into 2015, the Central District of California has already decided at least two new cases with fair use components (both cases involved several other copyright and contractual issues), finding largely in favor of fair use.

Rosen v. eBay — Photographing physical works for the purpose of re-selling the physical works

This case involves a lawsuit by Barry Rosen, a professional photographer, against eBay asserting, among other issues, that photographing physical magazines containing his images and posting them on eBay’s auction site violated his copyright. eBay argued that a photograph of the physical magazine was fair use.

The district court found that the photographs of the magazine “as used to represent physical magazines for resale, constitutes fair use.” It found that the use was transformative because while the original photographs were created for artistic purposes, the photographs of the magazines were used to provide information as to the condition and content of the magazines being sold. The court noted that, “the public also benefits greatly from being able to evaluate the magazines offered for sale legitimately under the first sale doctrine.” The court also found that photographing the magazine was necessary for its purpose and that the effect on the market was minimal.

Furthermore, the court rejected Rosen’s claim that fair use applies only to certain types of infringement and “the fair use doctrine applies to all forms of use of copyrighted works.” Holding otherwise, the court stated, “would drastically limit the ability of any person to resell any visual copyrighted work except to those in the physical presence of the work.”

Fox Broadcasting v. Dish Network — Time-shifting and place-shifting

Dish Network offered services that record television shows and skip over commercials, asserting that such technology was fair use, and was subsequently sued by various networks. The case involved a number of copyright and contractual issues; while the court found largely in favor of fair use for time-shifting and place-shifting technology, it also found that Dish Network may be liable for breach of contract.

The district court found that the “PrimeTime Anytime” service, which allowed users to record prime time television shows and skip over the commercials, constituted fair use under Universal Studios v. Sony (the “Betamax” case in which the Supreme Court ruled that videotaping a television broadcast was fair use). The district court summarized, “Sony established that it is fair use for users to make individual copies of television shows from broadcast television for purposes of noncommercial, nonprofit time-shifting.” The district court found that even though a market exists in which Fox licenses its programming to third parties to be distributed commercial-free, DISH’s PrimeTime Anytime service constituted fair use because the service did not compete with this market. The court noted that DISH subscribers had access to other services to record programming manually using other DVR technologies and that the recordings through the PrimeTime Anytime service was only available for eight days unless the subscriber affirmatively saved the recording in another folder. The district court then concluded that “The potential for market harm to the secondary market for Fox’s program caused by PTAT alone is simply too speculative to defeat a finding of fair use by a time-shifting technology which enhances consumers’ non-commercial private use of recorded programming.” While finding in favor of fair use of the PTAT technology, however, the court ruled against fair use for the copies DISH made as “quality assurance” copies finding that they were non-transformative.

After ruling in favor of DISH’s time-shifting technology, the court also noted that place-shifting is fair use: “Hopper Transfers is a technology that permits non-commercial time- and place-shifting of recordings already validly possessed by subscribers which is paradigmatic fair use under existing law. See Recording Indus. Ass’n of Am., 180 F.3d at 1079 (making copies ‘in order to render portable or ‘space shift’ those files that already reside on a user’s hard drive . . . is paradigmatic noncommercial use.” While this use is itself a fair use, however, DISH may have violated its contractual agreements with Fox.

These first fair use cases of 2015 involve vastly different circumstances, but highlight the importance of the fair use right. Fair use, working in tandem with the first sale doctrine, can provide information to the public about the quality of an item being sold. It can also provide valuable services with new technologies to consumers. As these cases demonstrate, fair use is relied upon every day and the doctrine helps balance copyright law. Of course, fair use extends far beyond the scope of these cases.

As an extremely crucial right touching upon so many facets of every day life, fair use deserves to be highlighted multiple times and we hope you will join us in celebrating this important doctrine during the upcoming Fair Use Week!  More information on Fair Use Week 2015, which will be held February 23-27, is available here.