On July 5, 2019 the U.S. Copyright Office announced that pursuant to its authority under the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act, it has appointed the aptly named Mechanical Licensing Collective, Inc., to serve as the designated mechanical licensing collective (MLC) and Digital Licensee Coordinator, Inc., to serve as the digital license coordinator.
As one might expect, the Mechanical Licensing Collective, Inc. board comprises representatives from the music publishing and songwriting community, while the board of Digital Licensee Coordinator, Inc. is composed of representatives from the titans of digital music distribution: Amazon, Apple, Google, Sirius XM, and Spotify.
On June 26, Karyn Temple, the Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office, appeared before the House Judiciary Committee as the sole witness in a hearing on Oversight of the U.S. Copyright Office.
Oversight hearings are fairly routine in Washington, but this one was notable because it was the first time that Register Temple has appeared before the Committee since her permanent appointment to the Register post back in March, giving her an opportunity to present her vision for the future of the Office and her policy priorities.
Not surprisingly, much of the discussion centered around the modernization of the Office’s IT systems, and the Library’s meddling in the Office’s IT affairs. As described throughout The Unrealized Promise, the relationship between the Library’s IT department and the Copyright Office has been fraught (to put it mildly), but Register Temple appeared confident that the Library’s CIO would adhere to the statutory mandate to use funding allocated specifically for the Copyright Office for Office-specific IT enhancements.
Other topics of discussion included the recently re-introduced CASE Act, which would provide copyright owners with an alternative to full-blown federal court litigation for infringements of relatively small value; and the upcoming expiration of the section 119 license for satellite retransmissions which, as readers of The Unrealized Promise‘s chapter 8 know, has traditionally been extended at the last minute. The Copyright Office has long supported the phasing out of the various statutory licenses for broadcast retransmissions, and Register Temple reiterated that view on Wednesday.
In Chapter 5, I briefly discuss a case brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation challenging the constitutionality of the anticircumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (better known as “Section 1201”). At the time the book was written, the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and the defendants’ motion to dismiss were pending.
On June 27, 2019, the court granted in part and denied in part the defendants’ motion to dismiss, leaving intact only an as-applied challenge on grounds that the government failed to establish that the anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking provisions do not burden more speech than necessary to achieve their intended ends. The court did not rule on the motion for preliminary injunction. The full opinion is below.
The case is Green, et al. v. U.S. Department of Justice, et al., Civil No. 16-01492, pending before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
In Chapter 6 of The Unrealized Promise of the Next Great Copyright Act, I discuss the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act which was introduced in the 115th Congress but did not make it through the legislative process before the end of the term. Intended to alleviate the burden on small, independent creative professionals who often do not have the resources to bring full-blown traditional federal litigation, the bill would have established a tribunal within the Copyright Office to adjudicate certain infringement claims of relatively low value. Participation would be voluntary, though the timing and mechanism by which a defendant would opt in (or opt out) of the procedure was a matter of some consternation among stakeholders.
The measure has been re-introduced in the 116th Congress in both houses: H.R. 2426 in the House and S. 1273 in the Senate. As with last term, the bill enjoys broad support, especially from the visual arts industry.
On July 28 at 3:30pm PDT (22:30 UTC), I’ll be presenting a free “Zoominar” (a webinar, using Zoom) sponsored by the Pacific Planetarium Association entitled Using Music in Your Planetarium…Legally. Here’s the official description:
Many planetarians ignore the copyright issues surrounding the use of commercially available music in the planetarium, while others, fearing the unknown, simply avoid using music in their productions. Still others believe, erroneously, that so long as a facility is covered by licenses from the likes of ASCAP or BMI, they are free to use music in their shows. Get some expert knowledge and have some of your questions answered in the web seminar.
You can learn more about the PPA Zoominar series and find out how to join by visiting PPA’s website. Hope to see you online!
Update: You can access an archived version of the presentation here, and the Q&A here.