Last week, members of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee introduced their first of many upcoming policy proposals aimed at modernizing U.S. copyright law, and, specifically, the U.S. Copyright Office. This proposal sets out specific changes for the Copyright Office, including creating an advisory committee, introducing an information technology modernization plan, increasing the Office’s autonomy over the Library of Congress, and improving and maintaining the Office’s searchable databases of copyright information. The proposal also outlines additional administrative reforms, such as providing the Copyright Office with increased control over its budget and technology, implementing a nomination and consent process for the register of copyrights, and increasing the number of register advisory positions. Particularly of note is the proposal’s suggestion that the Office implement a “small-claims system” to handle small infringement cases and bad faith Section 512 safe harbor notices. The Judiciary Committee will maintain its role in implementing this and future proposals by evaluating individual areas of current copyright law, such as music licensing, which may need future reform. The proposals aim to serve as a “starting point,” enabling collaborative discussion and policymaking between stakeholders to ultimately reform U.S. copyright law. The proposal is open for public comment until January 31, 2017.
Takeaways: Federal legislators are taking a more proactive approach to reforming copyright law in the U.S. and will most likely continue to do so in coming years. Advertisers and content creators should pay special attention to the possible “small claims system” as a preliminary mechanism to resolve copyright disputes.