Lee, Timothy B. (Apr 26 2013). Five ways Congress should improve the copyright system. A powerful congressman wants a "comprehensive review." Here are our suggestions. Retrieved from http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/04/five-ways-congress-should-improve-the-copyright-system
First, whenever one suggests the Congress should improve the copyright system, JUST SAY NO!
Timothy Lee's article is a bit naive on suggestions but worthwhile reading to encourage the dialogue on Copyright changes.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) announced plans for a "comprehensive review" of copyright law. "I am announcing today that the House Judiciary Committee will hold a comprehensive series of hearings on US copyright law in the months ahead," Goodlatte said. "The goal of these hearings will be to determine whether the laws are still working in the digital age. I welcome all interested parties to submit their views and concerns to the Committee."
Five suggestions for improving copyright law that Congress ought to consider.
1 – Realistic Penalties
Single mother Jammie Thomas-Rasset has been fighting six-figure penalties for close to a decade in one of the few file-sharing cases to make it into a courtroom. She is accused of sharing just 24 songs, which have a retail value of around $24.
And the threat of astronomical damages has been a potent weapon in the hands of copyright trolls like Prenda Law. Prenda's Paul Duffy pointed to the $222,000 verdict against Thomas-Rasset as a cautionary tale in his communications with alleged infringers.
2 – Forfeiting Assets due to Copyright
In January 2012, the federal government froze the worldwide assets of file-sharing site Megaupload and its founder, Kim Dotcom. The operation was made possible by the 2008 PRO-IP Act, which for the first time gave the government broad authority to use the power of civil asset forfeiture in copyright cases. In 2010, the government seized a hip-hop blog called Dajaz1, holding it for almost a year before finally returning it. Evidently, the government didn't have a case against its owner. Dajaz1 was just one of hundreds of domain names seized by the government over the last three years as part of "Operation In Our Sites." While many of these sites do appear to have been engaged in illegal activities, it's troubling that the government has the power to shut them down before their owners have any opportunity to defend themselves.
Megaupload may be guilty of copyright infringement, but the firm should have had its day in court before having its assets seized and its site shut down. The operator of Dajaz1 should have had a chance to respond to the government's accusations before losing control of his site.
3 - Reform the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Modern music software such as iTunes has long included a feature to rip your CD collection onto your computer. Yet almost two decades after DVDs were introduced, legal software to rip them is not available. Congress should narrow the DMCA's restrictions on circumvention, and should consider repealing the provisions altogether.
4 - Reduce copyright termsAmerica's original copyright system granted authors 14 years of protection with the option to renew for an additional 14 years. Congress changed the term for new works to the life of the author plus 70 years.
5 – Require Registration
For most of the 20th century, getting copyright protection for a work required marking it with a copyright notice and registering it with the Library of Congress. Starting in 1976, Congress eliminated these requirements, known as "formalities." Today, almost everything you write—your emails, your diary, and sketches you draw on cocktail napkins—are copyrighted, whether you want them to be or not. And that protection could last for more than a century with no renewal requirement.
The result has been a huge "orphan works" problem.
Congress should once again require registration as a pre-condition of copyright protection and periodic renewal to keep copyright protection in effect. Registration could be done online and the Librarian of Congress could charge a nominal fee such as $1. Renewal could be as simple as logging into the Librarian of Congress's website and updating an author's contact information—the Librarian of Congress could even send out helpful e-mail reminders when a work comes up for renewal. People who wanted to use older works would either be able to use the database to identify a work's owners, or to verify that the work has fallen into the public domain and was free for anyone to copy.