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Can’t Get Away From Fair Use

This week is Fair Use Week, an annual celebration of the important doctrines of fair use and fair dealing. It is designed to highlight and promote the opportunities presented by fair use and fair dealing, celebrate successful stories, and explain these doctrines.

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

Copyright owners accuse library advocates of having fair use on the brain, but the truth is that we just can’t get away from fair use. Over Presidents’ Day Weekend, I saw the touring production of Something Rotten with my son at the National Theatre in Washington DC. I knew nothing about the show before I went, other than that my wife thought I would love it, even though I don’t care for musicals; and that the title was an allusion to the line in Shakespeare’s Hamlet that “Something is rotten in the State of Denmark.”

Well I did love it, and not only because it was very entertaining. It also demonstrated the importance of the fair use and the public domain to new creative expression. The show concerns the efforts of two brothers in London in the 1590s struggling to compete with the popularity of William Shakespeare. Desperate to find an idea for a new play, one brother consults a soothsayer to learn what sorts of plays would be popular in the future, and what would be the subject of Shakespeare’s next hit. The soothsayer informs him that audiences will love musicals, and that Shakespeare’s next play will involve eggs, ghosts, and danish.

The brother is skeptical about the concept of musicals—why would actors suddenly start to sing? This skepticism leads to an eight-minute song that contains lyrics, melodies, and visual references to at least twenty musicals, including Avenue Q, The Fantasticks, Les Miserables, Fascinating Rhythm, West Side Story, Music Man, Seussical, South Pacific, Chicago, Evita, Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar, Sunday in the Park with George, Annie, Guys & Dolls, Sweet Charity, Hello Dolly, Cats, Sweeny Todd, and A Chorus Line. The musical the brothers ultimately produce (Omlette: the Musical) contains lines or melodies from Fiddler on the Roof, The Producers, Phantom of the Opera, Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and Oklahoma.

Moreover, Something Rotten contains numerous quotations and characters from Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Henry IV.

In short, without fair use and copyright term, Something Rotten could not have been created and produced. And it wasn’t exactly a fringe production. It had a run of 742 performances on Broadway, and it was nominated for ten Tony Awards. The actor who played Shakespeare, Christian Borle, won the Tony for best featured actor in a musical.

Existing expression is the raw material for new expression. And for new expression to be fresh and topical, authors must be able to use works more recent than Shakespeare’s.

Balanced Copyright in CPTPP and NAFTA

This week is Fair Use Week, an annual celebration of the important doctrines of fair use and fair dealing. It is designed to highlight and promote the opportunities presented by fair use and fair dealing, celebrate successful stories, and explain these doctrines.

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

The “balanced copyright” provision of the original Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) Agreement has been included in the successor agreement, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (“CPTPP”), negotiated by the remaining TPP parties after the United States pulled out of the TPP. However, it appears that the U.S. government is opposing the provision’s inclusion in the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”), currently under renegotiation. This is ironic given that the United States originally proposed inclusion of the provision, based on the U.S. fair use doctrine, in TPP. Thus, the eleven parties to the CPTPP now appear more dedicated to a U.S. legal principle than the United States itself.

TPP

Article 18.66 of the IP chapter of the TPP required each party to “endeavor to achieve an appropriate balance in its copyright and related rights systems.” This balance was to be achieved by means of limitations and exceptions that gave “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 disabled.”

The United States originally proposed this language during the July 2012 round of TPP negotiations in San Diego, CA. (See here for more detailed discussion of the development of Article 18.66.) The provision’s list of legitimate purposes was based on the list of purposes in 17 U.S.C. 107, which codifies the fair use doctrine. The U.S. explained that “[t]hese principles are critical aspects of the U.S. copyright system, and appear in both our law and jurisprudence. The balance sought by the U.S. TPP proposal recognizes and promotes respect for the important interests of individuals, businesses, and institutions who rely on appropriate exceptions and limitations in the TPP region.”

Twelve countries, including the United States, signed the TPP on February 4, 2016. On January 23, 2017, the day after his inauguration, President Trump withdrew from the TPP, which had not yet come into effect.

CPTPP

The remaining eleven TPP parties—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam–agreed on a revised TPP on January 23, 2018. The new agreement, named the CPTPP, is largely the same as the TPP, except that the parties decided to suspend 20 provisions that had been demanded by the United States in the TPP. With respect to copyright, the parties suspended the provisions relating to copyright term, circumvention of technological protection measures, and safe harbors for Internet service providers. Significantly, the parties did not suspend the balanced copyright provision, even though it had originally been proposed by the United States. Thus, the eleven CPTPP countries have obligated themselves the endeavor to achieve an appropriate balance in the copyright systems.

NAFTA

Once President Trump announced that the United States would renegotiate NAFTA, it was assumed that the United States would use the TPP IP chapter as the template for the new NAFTA IP chapter since Mexico, Canada, and the United States had already agreed to that language in TPP and the TPP IP chapter reflected so many of the U.S. demands. Nonetheless, the copyright industries launched a lobbying campaign against incorporation of the “balanced copyright” and ISP safe harbor provisions.

The Copyright Alliance, for example, asserted that while it “believe[s] in a ‘balanced’ copyright system,” the “concept of ‘balance’ is actively being twisted and used as a vehicle for weakening copyright protections….” For this reason, it is “skeptical about including this type of language in a trade agreement.” Similarly, the Recording Industry Association of America (“RIAA”) argued that “efforts to export the American fair use exception are particularly troubling.” Accordingly, RIAA believed that the United States should not support “broad provisions that could diminish, or otherwise generate legal uncertainty with respect to, the three-step test.”

However, there is no evidence that the concept of balance is being twisted or that the export of fair use would lead to uncertainty or the weakening of copyright protection in a troubling manner. The example of Israel is instructive. Israel adopted a fair use provisions similar to 17 U.S.C. 107 in 2007. Since then, Israeli courts have applied fair use stringently. They have imposed a fifth factor not included in the statute: the defendant must provide attribution to the author. Moreover, Israeli courts have found fair use at a lower rate than U.S. courts. Thus, the Israeli courts’ implementation of fair use demonstrates that U.S. copyright owners have nothing to fear from the export of fair use. In any event, TPP article 18.66 does not require adoption of a fair use provision; it simply imposes an obligation to endeavor to achieve balance.

Balance as a Traditional Contour of U.S. Copyright Law

An even more unreasonable objection to a balanced copyright provision in NAFTA appeared in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, by twenty-five conservative organizations. These groups, which have no knowledge of the copyright system, urged the USTR “to reject calls for NAFTA to include ‘users’ rights,’ which was manifested in the Obama-era concept of copyright ‘balance.’”

Contrary to the letter’s suggestion, copyright balance is not an “Obama-era” concept. Rather, it is a principle the U.S. Supreme Court and courts of appeals articulated repeatedly long before the Obama Administration.

Thus, the Supreme Court in Bonito Boats, Inc. v. Thunder Craft Boats, Inc., 489 U.S. 141, 146 (1989), observed that the Constitution’s intellectual property clause “itself reflects a balance between the need to encourage innovation and the avoidance of monopolies which stifle competition without any concomitant advance in the ‘Progress of Science and useful Arts.’”

In Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417, 429 (1984), the Supreme Court stated that “Congress has been assigned the task of defining the scope of the limited monopoly that should be granted to authors or inventors in order to give the public appropriate access to their work product…[T]his task involves a difficult balance between the interests of authors and inventors in the control and exploitation of their writings and discoveries on the one hand, and society’s competing interest in the free flow of ideas, information, and commerce on the other….”

In Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., 545 U.S. 913, 928 (2005), the Supreme Court recognized that the copyright law maintained a “balance between the respective values of supporting creative pursuits through copyright protection and promoting innovation in new communication technologies by limiting the incidence of liability for copyright infringement.” The Court noted that “[t]he more artistic protection is favored, the more technological innovation may be discouraged; the administration of copyright law is an exercise in managing the trade-off.” Id.

The federal courts of appeals likewise have recognized the concept of copyright balance. The Second Circuit stated that “the copyright law seeks to establish a delicate equilibrium. On the one hand, it affords protection to authors as an incentive to create, and, on the other hand, it must appropriately limit the extent of that protection so as to avoid the effects of monopolistic stagnation.” Computer Assocs. Int’l, Inc., v. Altai, Inc., 982 F.2d 693, 696 (2d Cir. 1992).

Similarly, the Fifth Circuit wrote that in the Copyright Act “Congress balanced the competing concerns of providing incentive to authors to create and of fostering competition in such creativity.” Kern River Gas Transmission Co. v. Coastal Corp., 899 F.2d 1458, 1463 (5th Cir. 1990).

The Federal Circuit, referring to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a statute criticized in the December 18 letter, noted that in enacting the DMCA, “Congress attempted to balance the legitimate interests of copyright owners with those of consumers of copyrighted products.” Chamberlain Group v. Skylink Tech., Inc., 381 F.3d 1178, 1203 (Fed. Cir. 2004). The court observed that under the plaintiff’s interpretation, which would have “eliminated all balance and granted copyright owners carte blanche authority to preclude all use, Congressional intent would remain unrealized.” Id.

It is curious that a group of conservative organizations would disparage users’ rights in favor of what the Supreme Court has described as a government granted monopoly. It is even more curious that these organizations would suggest that exceptions and limitations such as fair use “should be contracting, not expanding, in the digital age.” After all, the Supreme Court in Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186, 219 (2003), explained that fair use is one of the “traditional contours of copyright protection that acts as “a built-in First Amendment accommodation[].” Surely these groups support the First Amendment—and that is what the concept of balanced copyright is all about.

Copyright Notice and Fair Use

This week is Fair Use Week, an annual celebration of the important doctrines of fair use and fair dealing. It is designed to highlight and promote the opportunities presented by fair use and fair dealing, celebrate successful stories, and explain these doctrines.

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

The absence of a copyright notice on content posted by its author on the Internet should weigh in favor of fair use of that content, by libraries and other users, under the second fair use factor.

Until the United States joined the Berne Convention in 1989, a work could fall into the public domain if it was published without a copyright notice. The notice had to include the copyright symbol, the name of the copyright owner, and the year of first publication. The Berne Convention prohibits “formalities” as a condition for protection, so once the United States joined the Berne Convention, it eliminated the notice requirement.

However, the Copyright Act still provides an incentive for including a copyright notice. Under 17 U.S.C. § 401(d), if a copyright owner applies a copyright notice to his work, no evidentiary weight may be given to a defendant’s claim that he is an innocent infringer in mitigation of damages. In other words, if the copyright owner applied a notice, a defendant can’t claim the infringement was innocent because he or she “was not aware, and had no reason to believe, that his or her acts constituted an infringement….” This means that the defendant can’t seek reduction of the statutory damages minimum from $750 to $200 per work infringed.

The Copyright Act does not set forth what impact copyright notice should have on the fair use analysis. Nor, as far as I am aware, does the fair use case law. But a powerful argument can be made that the absence of a copyright notice should weigh in favor of fair use under the second fair use factor.

The second fair use factor—the nature of the copyrighted work—receives little attention by courts. They typically ask whether the work is published or unpublished, and whether it is a work of fact or fiction. Robert Kasunic has argued that courts should take a more nuanced view of the second factor. In particular, Kasunic contends that the second factor should be understood to ask “whether copyright might have reasonably encouraged or provided an incentive for an author to create the work.” Kasunic adds that “once we understand the work and the reasonable and customary expectations of authors for that type of material, we can better understand how various uses might affect the incentive to create such works.” Significantly, the starting point for Kasunic’s analysis is Judge Leval’s famous law review article Toward a Fair Use Standard. With respect to the second factor, Kasunic explains that Judge Leval “recognized the need to distinguish between authors of works for whom copyright provided an incentive to create and those authors who were incidental beneficiaries of copyright.”

It is hard to imagine a clearer indication of an author’s expectations concerning her work—whether she intends to use copyright to control subsequent uses of her work or instead is an “incidental beneficiary” of copyright—than whether she attached a copyright notice when she published it. In many situations, a user could reasonably assume that by omitting notice, the author was signaling that she did not expect to rely on copyright to control reproduction and distribution of the work. In such situations, the author’s failure to place a notice on the work should weigh in favor of fair use under the second factor.

What are these situations? Daily, millions of photographs, videos, blogs, songs and other works are posted on the Internet. Many (if not most) of these works are posted without copyright notice. The terms of service of large social media platforms such as Facebook specify that users agree that everyone may use their content published on the platform. But vast quantities of content are posted on other websites that do not have such terms of service. People repost these works without requesting the author’s permission and without incurring the author’s opposition.

In the event the author of such a work did challenge a reuse, fair use is the legal theory that would best support the lawfulness of the reuse. And the absence of copyright notice should buttress the fair use calculus under the second factor. A user could reasonably interpret the absence of notice as a signal that the author did not expect to rely on copyright to control the reproduction and distribution of the work—that the author is just an incidental beneficiary of copyright. Of course, this is just one element of one factor, and would not be dispositive of the fair use question. And if there were indicia that the work was posted on the website without the author’s authorization, then the absence of notice should have no weight.

Factoring the absence of notice into the fair use calculus could be of particular importance to libraries interested in harvesting content posted on websites. Although the existing fair use case law is very strong for the preservation of this content and its inclusion in search databases, the jurisprudence is less developed with respect to providing access to full text or full-sized images. The argument that the author’s failure to include notice tilts the second factor in favor of a fair use determination should give libraries additional comfort as they decide what to do with web content they have collected.

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*

og-copyrightweek

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.

A New Approach to Copyright Exceptions and Limitations

*Guest post by Jonathan Band, policybandwidth*

Any discussion with policymakers or rightsholders concerning the possible adoption of new copyright exceptions and limitations invariably centers on how to make sure that the exception is not abused. This leads to lengthy negotiations resulting in complex, difficult-to-use provisions that resemble the tax code. This pattern has been repeated in connection to the exceptions to section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the TEACH Act for distance education (17 U.S.C. § 110(2)), the Chafee Amendment for the print disabled (17 U.S.C. § 121), and orphan works legislation, to name just a few of the more salient examples.

It’s time for this pattern to be broken. Rightsholders have nothing to fear from exceptions and their possible abuse. Infringement deriving from abuse of exceptions likely would be a tiny fraction of the overall incidence of infringement. At the same time, preventing the public benefits that flow from exceptions undermines the purpose of the copyright system.

Section 108

Unfortunately, this pattern of developing overly restrictive exceptions may soon repeat itself in the context of the exception for libraries and archives in 17 U.S.C. § 108. In 2005, the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office convened a study group consisting of librarians and publishers to consider how to update section 108 for the digital age. After three contentious years, the study group issued a report recommending several possible amendments to section 108, but could not reach consensus on the details of those amendments, nor on how to handle other important issues such as copies for users or license restrictions.

Notwithstanding this lack of consensus, and over the objection of most libraries and archives, the Copyright Office has decided to urge Congress to revise section 108. This past June, the Copyright Office issued a notice of inquiry stating that it seeks “to finalize its legislative recommendation” concerning a “re-drafting” of section 108. In meetings with stakeholders pursuant to this notice of inquiry, the Copyright Office stated that it hopes to complete its legislative recommendation and transmit it to Congress this fall.

Although the Copyright Office hopes to make section 108 simpler and more user-friendly, the Office’s likely concern about “leakage” almost certainly guarantees that the re-drafted section 108 will be complicated and not understandable by librarians without law degrees. And even if the Office somehow manages to produce a streamlined and comprehensible proposal, the rightsholders can be expected to insist on changes to eliminate possible abuse that will inevitably make the proposal more complex.

There is no doubt that digital networks have facilitated copyright infringement. And while the adverse impact of this infringement probably has been overstated by rightsholders, it is perfectly legitimate for rightsholders to take reasonable measures to address infringement. The operative word here is reasonable. And making exceptions for libraries, educational institutions, or the print disabled difficult to use in order to reduce potential leakage is not reasonable.

There are approximately 200 million smartphone users in the United States, and 2 billion smartphone users worldwide. Each smartphone has the capability of reproducing entire copyrighted works and uploading them to the Internet, where they can be disseminated globally. In a world where this technological capability is literally at the fingertips of so many users, what possible difference could it make if there is a small amount of leakage from a library?

Consider the following examples. Under existing section 108(c), a library is permitted to make a replacement copy of a published work that is damaged or lost if the library determines that an unused replacement cannot be obtained at a fair price. While the library may circulate a physical replacement copy, it cannot make a copy available in a digital format outside the library premises. The Section 108 study group recommended modifying the prohibition on off-site lending of digital replacement copies only to allow the lending of a copy reproduced in a digital physical medium if the library’s original copy was also in a digital physical medium. In other words, if the library owned an audiobook CD that was deteriorating, the study group proposal would allow the library to make and lend a replacement CD, but it would not be able to stream the digital file to a user. Similarly, if its original copy wasn’t digital, the library would not be able to make a digital copy viewable outside of the library premises.

The publishers in the Section 108 study group insisted on these restrictions because they were afraid that the digital files would be retransmitted on the Internet. This concern overlooks four facts. First, the exception would only be available if a replacement copy couldn’t be purchased, i.e., the work was out of print so there would be no market harm, even if unlawful retransmission occurred. Second, unlawful copies of any work for which there is current and likely future demand are already available online, so how much incremental harm could be caused by unlawful retransmission of the library’s replacement copy? Third, technological measures exist to make retransmission difficult. Fourth, as fair use jurisprudence has evolved, making the digital copy available outside the library premises with appropriate technological protections likely would be a fair use. In other words, the library could probably engage in the activity anyway under a fair use theory, so why not save the library the burden of performing the fair use analysis and simply permit it under an explicit exception?

A similar analysis could be performed for many of the study group’s other recommendations. For example, the proposed exception for the archiving of publicly accessible websites was unnecessarily regulatory, especially considering that commercial entities such as Google and Microsoft routinely engage in this activity under a fair use theory.

It is the awareness that section 108 reform will be extremely contentious and unlikely to produce positive results that has led to library opposition to the Copyright Office’s initiative.

Section 1201 Rulemaking

Likewise, the exemptions that the Library of Congress has adopted during the course of the triennial rulemaking under section 1201 of the DMCA reflect an unhealthy obsession with possible abuse. The current exemption, adopted in 2015, permits circumvention of the technological protections on lawfully acquired motion pictures by college and university faculty and students, for use of short portions for educational purposes “in film studies or other courses requiring close analysis of film and media excerpts…where the person engaging in circumvention reasonably believes that screen-capture software or other non-circumventing alternatives are unable to produce the required level of high-quality content.” Thus, an instructor or a student may circumvent only after determining that no alternative to circumvention will produce the “level of high-quality content.” This would necessitate that the instructor or student determine: 1) whether the course requires “close analysis of film and media excerpts;” 2) what level of quality excerpt she needs to satisfy her educational purpose; 3) what are the various available alternatives to circumvention; and 4) whether any of these alternatives will produce the required level of quality excerpt. In the K-12 context, this exemption is available only to instructors, not students.

The Copyright Office designed an exemption that requires educational users to jump through many hoops so as to ensure that the exemption is not abused. At the insistence of rightsholders, the Copyright Office evidently considers circumvention to be a highly dangerous activity that leaves films vulnerable to widespread infringement, and thus must be regulated carefully. However, there is no evidence that any infringement resulted from earlier iterations of the exemption that were more straightforward. Further, the software necessary to circumvent the technological protection measures on DVDs or other storage media is widely available on the Internet and easy to use. Moreover, infringing copies of most films can be found on the Internet soon after release. Thus, a simple, broad circumvention exemption for any educational use would not harm the market for the films in any meaningful way. (At one time, some film studios planned to create a market for licensing film clips to educational institutions, but the enormous number of works educators need to access made development of such a market infeasible.)

A New Approach

Rightsholders’ frustration with their loss of control over their content is understandable. It also is understandable that this frustration would fuel a desire to exercise control wherever they can, even though it makes no difference to their bottom line.

Although the rightsholders’ frustration is understandable, it is bad copyright policy to impose the costs of overly restrictive exceptions on libraries and educational institutions where there is no offsetting benefit to rightsholders or society at large. As the Supreme Court recently stated in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley, “copyright law ultimately serves the purpose of enriching the general public through access to creative works.” The Supreme Court then explained that “the statute achieves that end by striking a balance between two subsidiary aims: encouraging and rewarding authors’ creations while enabling others to build on that work.” Exceptions and limitations are the means to achieve the aim of enabling others to build on a work.

Rather than fight reasonable adjustments to Title 17 to accommodate digital technology, rightsholders should embrace them. This not only would better meet the objectives of the copyright system, it also would be in the long run best interest of rightsholders. Instead of advocating for narrow section 1201 exemptions for educational uses of film clips, studios should encourage the broadest possible use of films in classrooms. Doing so would more deeply entrench the role of films in American culture and society.

Similarly, publishers should facilitate libraries making the robust use of their collections. Libraries spend $4 billion a year acquiring books and other materials. The more access libraries are able to provide to their collections—the more libraries are used—the easier it is for libraries to secure the budget they need to purchase more materials. Additionally, greater access to written materials encourages literacy, which in turn leads to greater demand for written materials. Finally, for many users, the alternative to accessing materials through libraries would not be to purchase the materials, but to find infringing copies on the Internet.

The same logic applies to remixes and fan fiction. More enlightened rightsholders have recognized that these activities deepen fan loyalty and result in increased sales. Additionally, these activities train the next generation of artists. And of course, reasonable exceptions enhance the credibility of the copyright system generality.

In short, rightsholders should stop treating libraries and educational institutions—their biggest customers—as their copyright enemies, and instead assist them in promoting the creation and dissemination of culture by supporting the broadest possible copyright exceptions. If rightsholders can’t change direction on their own, policymakers in Congress, the Copyright Office, and the Executive Branch should lead the way. But until rightsholders and policymakers change their approach to exceptions, attempts to fashion new exceptions will largely be exercises in futility.

 

Assessing the DMCA’s Notice-and-Takedown Regime

*Guest post by Jonathan Band, policybandwidth*

There is an escalating war of words between supporters and detractors of the notice-and-takedown regime of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The content providers argue that the notice-and-takedown system is broken and advocate for its replacement with a notice-and-staydown system. The Internet industry responds that notice-and-takedown is essential to the vibrancy of the Internet, and that the regime demanded by the content providers would require costly and ineffective filtering and monitoring.

This debate about whether the legislative compromise reflected by the notice-and–takedown system still works misses the larger context in which Congress created the notice-and-takedown system and in which the system must be evaluated. Congress enacted the notice-and-takedown system in 1998 as one title of the much broader DMCA. This broader statute, in a separate title, established prohibitions on the circumvention of technological protection measures. These two titles were adopted together to create a balanced approach to copyright enforcement in the Internet environment. Thus, the effectiveness–and fairness–of the notice-and-takedown system should not be considered in isolation, but in relation to the effectiveness and fairness of the anti-circumvention provisions.

The Latest Round of the Debate

For years the content providers have complained about various provisions of the DMCA’s safe harbors for Internet service providers, but their primary target has been the notice-and-takedown system codified at 17 U.S.C. § 512(c) and (d). The latest round of attack started with a full-page ad on June 20, 2016, in the Washington D.C. newspapers The Hill, Politico, and Roll Call placed by music industry organizations such as the Recording Industry Association of America and well-known recording artists including Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney. The ad asserted that the DMCA “is broken and no longer works for creators.” It claimed that the DMCA “was written and passed in an era that is technologically out-of-date compared to the era in which we live.” The ad did not specify precisely why “the DMCA simply doesn’t work,” but observed that “it’s impossible for tens of thousands of individual songwriters and artists to muster the resources necessary to comply with its application.” Based on earlier statements by the RIAA and other music industry associations, this presumably was an allusion to the burden of copyright owners sending notices to a platform every time a user uploads infringing content—a burden that would be alleviated by a notice-and-staydown regime. The ad further stated that “the tech companies who benefit from the DMCA were not the intended protectorate when it was signed into law nearly two decades ago.

The ad provoked a quick response from the tech sector. Matt Schruers with the Computer & Communications Industry Association noted that RIAA was asking Congress “to upend one of the legal cornerstones of the Internet.” Schruers observed that the DMCA’s safe harbors “allowed the Internet to become what it is today—a worldwide democratizing platform for communication, creativity, and commerce.” Schruers stated tens of thousands of Internet platforms relied on the safe harbors to provide millions of creators a cost-free means of reaching a worldwide audience without the interference of traditional gatekeepers such as record labels, movie studios, or book publishers.

Michael Beckerman with the Internet Association similarly asserted that “If you love the Internet, you should thank the DMCA.” He explained that Internet companies should not be responsible for “policing every single piece of online content” because they “don’t have access to constantly changing licensing information, nor are they the appropriate party to make legal judgments about whether content qualifies as fair use….” He added that many Internet companies voluntarily employ “DMCA-plus” programs to provide greater flexibility to copyright owners to address infringing activity.

Neil Fried with the Motion Picture Association of America replied by arguing that “Congress did not intend the DMCA to create a relentless game of Whac-A-Mole.” Fried further complained that “content creators must still endlessly notify technology companies of the presence of unauthorized content, even when it is the same parties posting the same material.” However, unlike the RIAA and the other music industry associations, Fried did not call on Congress to amend Section 512. Instead, it urged the Internet companies to “engage voluntarily and collaboratively with the creative community on solutions that work for everyone….” Fried asked for “better help from technology companies to steer traffic away from websites dedicated to theft….” Fried provided “automatically removing duplicative copies of the same unauthorized content” as an example of how effective notice and staydown could be achieved.

What’s Missing From This Discussion?

The Internet Association’s Michael Beckerman stated that “the bargain” at the heart of the DMCA “is a simple: rightsholders have a mechanism to address infringement without engaging in a lengthy and expensive battle, and internet platforms that respond quickly to remove infringing content are held harmless for the actions of their users.” MPAA’s Fried referred to this bargain as the DMCA’s “grand design.” And CCIA’s Matt Schruers described it as “a compromise between copyright holders and online services.”

Judge Leval, in his recent decision in Capitol Records v. Vimeo, agreed with this characterization of Section 512 as a compromise:

what Congress intended in passing § 512(c) was to strike a compromise under which, in return for the obligation to take down infringing works promptly on receipt of notice of infringement from the owner, Internet service providers would be relieved of liability for user-posted infringements of which they were unaware, as well as of the obligation to scour matter posted on their services to ensure against copyright infringement. The purpose of the compromise was to make economically feasible the provision of valuable Internet services while expanding protections of the interests of copyright owners through the new notice-and-takedown provision.

But the compromise embodied by Section 512 is part of a larger compromise embodied by titles I and II of the DMCA. Title II created Section 512. Title I implemented the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Copyright Treaty and Performances and Phonograms Treaty by creating prohibitions on the circumvention of technological protection measures and the removal of copyright management information. These provisions now constitute Chapter 12 of title 17, including the controversial Section 1201.

Title I and title II originally were introduced as separate bills (the WIPO Copyright and Performances and Phonograms Treaties Implementation Act and the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act, respectively). The WIPO implementation bill was supported by the content industry and opposed by sectors of the technology industry. The safe harbor bill was supported by the online service providers and opposed by the content industry. In the face of this opposition, both bills stalled. Senator Orrin Hatch, then Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a bold legislative move, merged the two bills into one. He calculated that the content industry would be willing to accept the safe harbors in exchange for WIPO implementation. This calculation proved correct.

The content providers believe that Section 1201 has benefitted them enormously. In response to a notice of inquiry recently issued by the Copyright Office concerning Section 1201, the Association of American Publishers, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the Recording Industry Association of America filed joint comments stating that “the protections of Chapter 12 have enabled an enormous variety of flexible, legitimate digital business models to emerge and thrive….” BSA|The Software Alliance, the Copyright Alliance, the Software and Information Industry Association, the Entertainment Software Association, and Microsoft similarly asserted that Section 1201 has facilitated the secure online distribution of content.

In other words, the content providers applaud title I of the DMCA (Section 1201) as much as they complain about title II of the DMCA (Section 512). This is not surprising. Although Congress attempted to achieve a degree of balance within each title—although each title contains internal compromises–at the end of the day, the grand bargain of the DMCA was the marriage of the WIPO implementation and the safe harbor bills. According to the content providers, title I has “enabled an enormous variety of flexible, legitimate digital business modes to emerge and thrive.” And according to the Internet industry, title II has “allowed the Internet to become what it is today—a worldwide democratizing platform for communication, creativity, and commerce.”

Given the tradeoffs that Congress made in assembling the DMCA, policymakers should not assess the impact of any title in isolation. In particular, any adverse impact content providers claim they suffer on account of the safe harbors in Section 512 must be weighed against the benefit they receive from Section 1201 (which has had an adverse impact on other stakeholders).

ICYMI: District Court Denies Oracle’s Move to Overturn Fair Use Ruling in Favor of Google

On May 26, 2016, a jury ruled in favor of Google’s use of Java’s API in its Android system, finding that the inclusion of the code was fair use.  Oracle filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law, arguing that no reasonable jury could have found against Oracle.  Last week, the district court judge denied Oracle’s motion.

Jonathan Band has a really great analysis of the district court’s twenty page order applying fair use to the case on the DisCo Project blog: “Sanity Prevails Again, Part II: The District Court Leaves the Oracle v. Google Fair Use Verdict In Place.”

Thanks, But No Thanks

*This week is Fair Use Week, an annual celebration of the important doctrines of fair use and fair dealing. It is designed to highlight and promote the opportunities presented by fair use and fair dealing, celebrate successful stories, and explain these doctrines.

This post is brought to you by guest blogger, Jonathan Band of policybandwidth*

Over the past decade, policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic have devoted significant attention to finding ways to permit the use of orphan works: works whose copyright owners are difficult to identify or locate. Library associations in both Europe and the United States initially supported these efforts strongly. In Europe, these efforts culminated in the adoption of an Orphan Works Directive in 2012. In the United States, by contrast, legislation stalled in 2008. Although the U.S. Copyright Office continues to push for orphan works legislation, U.S. library associations no longer seek such relief. This is due to changes in the copyright legal landscape, particularly the evolving case law concerning fair use. This paper explores the different trajectories of orphan works legislation in the EU and the United States, with special emphasis on how U.S. libraries changed their position in response to legal developments on the ground.

The full paper is available here.

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

Fair Use in a Day in a Life of a Legislative Assistant

*This week is Fair Use Week, an annual celebration of the important doctrines of fair use and fair dealing. It is designed to highlight and promote the opportunities presented by fair use and fair dealing, celebrate successful stories, and explain these doctrines.*  

While we are celebrating Fair Use Week from February 23-27, every week is fair use week (in fact, every day is fair use day).  This important doctrine is critical to the ability to teach, learn, share information and use every day technologies.  Fair uses are all around us.

Earlier this week, Fred von Lohmann explained how fair use enables every day technology.  Today, Jonathan Band gives a sample day in the life of a legislative assistant, showing just how often fair use is employed in a daily basis.  Read all about Fair Use in a Day in a Life of a Legislative Assistant and visit fairuseweek.org for other great resources!