STATEMENT FROM COPYRIGHT ALLIANCE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SANDRA AISTARS RE: TODAY’S JUDICIARY SUBCOMMITTEE ON COURTS, IP, AND INTERENT, “A CASE STUDY FOR CONSENSUS BUILDING: THE COPYRIGHT PRINCIPLES PROJECT

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Copyright Alliance Executive Director Sandra Aistars made the following statement re: today’s hearing on “A Case Study For Consensus Building: The Copyright Principles Project,” to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet.

The theme you have chosen for this first hearing to review the Copyright Act is consensus building. As an organization that unites creators across disciplines and transcends boundaries between copyright holders of different backgrounds, we agree consensus building is important whenever challenging issues are discussed. We believe, however, that the Committee needs to take one step further back.

For the Committee’s work to have meaning, in reviewing copyright law you must bear in mind one thing: before there are competing vested interests to balance, and nuanced policy issues to navigate, there is an author.

The author is the core around which any well functioning Copyright Act must be constructed. Because the author will choose a path for his or her work based on the framework of laws you construct, and society will benefit – or not – accordingly.

We welcome this opportunity for a review of how the Copyright Act is serving authors, motivating the creation of new works of authorship, and the commercialization and dissemination of such works, for the benefit of our society. All three of these purposes are indispensable to a well functioning copyright system that serves consumers and creators alike. Ensuring authors feel inspired to create, that investors find value in commercializing copyrighted works and that copyright owners of both commercial and non-commercial works feel empowered and safe disseminating their works is key to ensuring an appropriate framework of laws. While the focus may begin on the author, the lives spent creating works, which enlighten, inspire, and entertain us ultimately benefit the general public and drive innovation including in media and communications technology.[1]

It is good to begin this review with a discussion of first principles – How to discuss copyright law amicably and rationally, without resorting to rhetoric and recriminations. If the choice of the Copyright Principles Project as the theme for the hearing was for that reason, then we can agree with the drafters of that report that,

Too much discourse about copyright law in the past fifteen years has been burdened by rhetorical excesses and an unwillingness to engage in rational discourse with those having differing perspectives. The CPP has proven that it is possible for persons ofgood will with diverse viewpoints and economic interests to engage in thoughtful civil discourse on even the toughest and most controversial copyright issues.[2]

Even so, the Principles Project is of somewhat limited value to illustrate best practices on a procedural basis.[3] The Project was a self-convened effort of “law professors, lawyers from private practice, and lawyers for copyright industry firms.”[4] We recognize that there are limits to the abilities of the conveners of this project to have reached all relevant parties, but we note, as have others,[5] the startling absence of any individual creators or small businesses in the group convened. 

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