When I told my daughter I was changing jobs a few weeks ago she asked me the name of my new organization. I told her I was going to be the new CEO of an organization called the “Copyright Alliance,” which represents a who’s who of the copyright community. She said that it was such a “cool” name and that it sounded like a group of superheroes.
As any father will appreciate, I don’t want to let my daughter down. So my goal is for the Copyright Alliance to be that superhero for the copyright community. I plan on accomplishing this primarily in three ways. By:
Bringing the Copyright and Tech Communities Closer Together:
For the past sixteen years I have worked as the General Counsel and SVP, Intellectual Property, for the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), where I worked hand-in-hand with a diverse group of tech companies on complex copyright, patent and other intellectual property issues. It astonishes me how the perceived divide between these two communities is so often exaggerated and emphasized when in fact, based on my many years at SIIA, there is much these two communities have in common.
I do not perceive the copyright and technology communities as warring factions. Both groups rely on copyright to promote and protect their creativity and innovation and both depend on innovation and technology to develop different models for making these new creations and inventions available to the public to enjoy. It’s time we stop focusing on what divides these two communities and focus on their similarities and how we can all better partner together. I hope to use my experiences with the tech community at SIIA to welcome a new era of cooperation.
Uniting Copyright Owners of All Types and Sizes:
The Copyright Alliance represents over 15,000 members across the spectrum of copyright disciplines. Our members are authors, photographers, performers, artists, software developers, musicians, journalists, directors, songwriters, game designers and many others. The Alliance also counts as its members book publishers, motion picture studios, software companies, music publishers, sound recording companies, sports leagues, broadcasters, guilds, and newspaper and magazine publishers and many more organizations.
This is a diverse group. While they have different interests and different views of how the copyright law should work, at the end of the day the are all supportive of the copyright system, they all rely on the copyright law for their livelihood and careers and they are all harmed when the system fails to adequately protect their valuable creations from outright theft.
Copyright is the engine that empowers creators to create. It gives them the freedom to try to make a living doing something that fulfills them while simultaneously entertaining and/or informing their audiences. It also gives them the freedom to decide whether and how to disseminate their creations to the public.
If I’m going to live up to the superhero aspirations established by my daughter, then its essential that the Copyright Alliance do what it can to protect these freedoms. Most copyright owners are not famous or wealthy. They are often not fluent in the details of copyright law or have the money or knowledge necessary to protect themselves when their works are pirated. That’s where the Copyright Alliance can help.
My hope is for the Copyright Alliance to become a clearinghouse for copyright information where creators of all sizes and kinds can come to learn what their rights are, what limitations may be placed on those rights, how they can enforce their rights and how they can license them. But education is not enough. My further goal is for the Copyright Alliance to assist these creators by providing services that will help them register their works with the Copyright Office and to enforce their rights against those who violate them.
Bringing Positive Change to the Copyright System:
The last several years there has been much discussion about what’s wrong with the copyright system. It’s like watching the daily news – 29 minutes is spent reporting on the murders, thefts and other catastrophes in the world and at the very end maybe a minute is spent on a “feel good” story.
The copyright law is one of America’s greatest “feel good” stories. For over 225 years, the copyright law has been incentivizing creators to express themselves freely while at the same time protecting the fruits of their labors. The United States is a leader in creativity and innovation, and the copyright law has played a major role in those successes.
Of course, no law is perfect. Like any law, the copyright law could probably use some updating and some tweaks, especially in the area of enforcement. After all, what good is a property right if anyone can effortlessly steal your property and you are powerless to stop it.
One of the greatest and most immediate needs for the copyright system is to modernize the Copyright Office. That seems to be one area of universal agreement and an area that should be the initial primary focus for all stakeholders of the copyright system.
In closing, I’ll reiterate what should be quite obvious – I am absolutely thrilled to be joining the organization. I look forward to working with Copyright Alliance members and other stakeholders of all sizes and types as I embark on this new journey. So for now I suppose it’s “up, up and away.”
Keith Kupferschmid is the Chief Executive Officer of the Copyright Alliance, a non-profit, non-partisan organization representing the interests of creators, producers and distributors of creative works across the spectrum of creative disciplines.