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Copyright Alliance Celebrates a Decade of Service by Keith Kupferschmid

May 15, 2017

On May 17, the Copyright Alliance celebrates a decade of service to the creative community, from the Hill, to the courtroom, and everywhere in between.

Needless to say, there have been some major changes in the creative space over the last ten years. Ten years ago, there were no platforms for streaming music—.mp3 files were the “big thing” in music, and peer-to-peer file-sharing was the copyright community’s biggest piracy threat. We were renting DVDs from Blockbuster, not yet binge-watching shows on Netflix. There was no Amazon Kindle. Our leisurely reading was confined to what we could fit in our bags. And when the Copyright Alliance opened its doors for the first time, the Nintendo Wii was the latest in video gaming, and the first generation iPhone hadn’t even been released.

And while much has changed over the years, the Copyright Alliance’s support and advocacy for creators has not. The Copyright Alliance was founded on the principle that despite the diverse set of interests among the various types of creators we represent, one thing we could all agree on was the need for a unified voice advocating on behalf of creators for improved copyright protection, especially in light of the new challenges presented by the digital age.

In 2007, just months after incorporation, we launched the Copyright Alliance EXPOnential, an annual expo on Capitol Hill, featuring creators, trade associations, and other organizations within the copyright community who showcased a variety of creative works and copyright protection tools. Through these expos we began our ten-year journey of telling the stories of our creators and highlighting importance of the copyright industries to our national and global economy.

In 2009, the Copyright Alliance and its vast and diverse network of creators met with White House staff, and delivered a letter, signed by upwards of 11,000 creators, highlighting the erosion of creators’ “rights to control the distribution, use, and reproduction of [their] works in [the] vibrant digital age” and asking President Obama and Vice President Biden to “pursue policies supportive of the rights of artists and the encouragement of [their] creative efforts.”

In 2012, the Copyright Alliance began partnering with the U.S. Copyright Office to celebrate World IP Day. Over the past six years, we’ve heard from talented musicians and songwriters, like Jason King and Steve Bogard, famous actors, like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Robert Newman, photographers like Chase Jarvis, filmmakers like Gail Mooney and Erin Kelly, members of Congress, like Representatives Bob Goodlatte and Doug Collins, and the list goes on. In fact, it was at our 2013 World IP Day program with the U.S. Copyright Office, that Representative Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced the Committee’s plan for a comprehensive review of copyright law.

That announcement started a review of copyright law that would last 3 years and include 20 hearings to evaluate various aspects of U.S. copyright law.The Copyright Alliance testified throughout those hearings, speaking on behalf of creators on issues like the scope of fair use, DMCA Section 512, the first sale doctrine, copyright remedies, and the role of copyright in American innovation.

In 2014, the Copyright Alliance began a partnership with New York-based Cravath, Swaine, and Moore LLP, to assist in finding potential clients for an externship program at Columbia Law School which provides free legal representation to individuals and small businesses in lawsuits involving cutting edge copyright issues. We’re now beginning our fourth year working with the clinic, and we’re currently accepting applicants for this year’s program.

In 2017, the Copyright Alliance partnered with CreativeFuture to send an open letter urging elected officials to support copyright as a foundation for creativity and free expression. The campaign was wildly successful, receiving more than 72,000 signatures from creators and those that support them from across the country. This is a far cry from 11,000 creators who signed the 2009 letter and shows the increased interest in and importance of copyright as well as the exponential growth and reach of the Copyright Alliance.

This year, we assembled a chorus of voices from the copyright community to help get H.R. 1695—the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act—passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 378–48! Recognizing the importance of the bill, thousands of individual creators contacted their local representatives and signed petitions urging support for this important first step toward modernizing the U.S. Copyright Office.

The Copyright Alliance’s core strength has always been unifying creators of all backgrounds and speaking with a common voice on important copyright issues, but we have a particular interest in advocating for individual creators and small businesses. Beginning with our own efforts and extending to our work with the Congressional Creative Rights Caucus (CRC), which has often looked “behind the scenes” to understand the impact of copyright policy on small creators, we have been passionate about ensuring that all types of creators have a voice in copyright policy discussions. That’s why we were present at the founding of the CRC, organized its launch party, helped recruit members, and have been enthusiastic partners of the CRC bringing creators from all walks of life to DC to tell their stories in public meetings.

We have also played a role in bringing together professionals and academics who are interested in issues affecting the creative community. Our Legal Advisory Board consists of 12 law firms who regularly represent members of the creative community in copyright matters. We regularly draw on their expertise in filing our own amicus briefs. Similarly, we take counsel from academics who study and teach intellectual property law. Our Academic Advisory Board consists of 15 professors from universities all across the country.

Though we are based in Washington, D.C., our advocacy reaches far and wide. To date, we’ve filed 22 amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court, courts of appeal for the Second, Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh circuits, as well as the D.C. Circuit, the Federal Circuit, and at the district court level. The Copyright Alliance has filed comments with the U.S. Copyright Office, International Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission, Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. We’ve been quoted in the Washington Post, Forbes, Bloomberg, Variety, Billboard, Politico and numerous other major media outlets. To put it simply, the Copyright Alliance has spent the last decade working tirelessly to advocate not only for the 1.8 million creators whose copyright interests we represent, but for the more than 5 million Americans who rely on copyright every day for their livelihood.

As for the future, it’s hard to predict what is on the horizon for creators and the copyright community. One thing that’s for certain, though, is that whatever lies ahead, the Copyright Alliance will be right there to support creators every step of the way and advocate for their right to earn a living through the creation of new copyrighted works for the public to enjoy.