Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Copyright Society: Representative Judy Chu

Keynote Speaker: Congresswomen Judy Chu (D-CA) (House Judiciary, IP Subcommittee)
There can be bipartisan agreement; there’s no obvious Democratic/Republican point of view, and we could get something done.  Copyright is important in her district—Pasadena/LA.  Influenced by entertainment industry, not with chart-toppers but set designers, makeup artists, lighting technicians.  Copyright is fundamental to this country.  Constitution, American economy/culture.  More than $1 trillion to GDP; $142 billion foreign sales/exports.  Always positive trade balance.  Original works can’t be duplicated anywhere else (RT: although it helps if they’re filmed in New Zealand). 
Reform: Multiple stakeholders have views on best approach.  She advocates for the everyday creator, who often doesn’t have a voice in Congress.  We all witnessed unraveling of SOPA.  She supported SOPA as a way to combat rampant piracy in this country.  (In this country?  I thought you told us it was to deal with pirates outside the reach of US law ….) Was dismayed by hysterical accusations about breaking the internet.  Defeat made clear that concerns of creative community weren’t heard.  Thus, she launched Congressional Creative Rights Caucus, with her chair Coble.  To help members of Congress understand everyday Americans whose jobs rely on these industries and rely on Congress to protect their rights.  53 members strong over 17 states, bipartisan.  Active in hosting educational briefings/events—songwriters talked about absurdly low payments for digital streaming; photographers speak about thumbnail images being higher quality so their livelihood is threatened when users don’t click through; recording artists talk about lack of compensation for terrestrial radio; next month a briefing for authors/publishers.  Upcoming: Rock the House competition, modeled on a competition in Parliament, to stop eyes from glazing over. Challenged members to choose the best song from groups w/in their districts.   Greatest victory: members of Parliament became engaged in IP issues, and eventually copyright law changed for the better.
Judiciary IP subcommittee: going section by section into the Act.  Needs of creators/public have evolved so much since last major action.  New tech poses challenges, as fair use and digital first sale hearings showed.  Most witnesses agreed no action on fair use was required for parodies/quotes, but recent decisions have allowed the expansion of fair use in Google Books, and an increasing number of remixes/mashups allow significant sections of an artist’s work to be inserted without compensation—should Congress intervene?  Should Congress intervene in first sale? 
She is hopeful we can move the needle on key issues, particularly in music licensing.  Fair compensation for all artists across all platforms.  Cosponsored Songwriter Equity Act—not fair that songwriter only makes 8 cents for 1000 digital streams.  Music licensing is not working for all creators on digital radio—rates need to be updated to reflect fair market value under willing buyer/willing seller standard, and rate courts should be able to consider other royalties when considering digital royalties. Also supports efforts to reform consent decree which has kept streaming rates artificially low.  DoJ is reviewing the consent decree—an important step forward.
Another bill: RESPECT Act—Respecting Senior Performers as Essential Cultural Treasures Act (sigh).  All artists should be fairly compensated regardless of platform, but because of federal statutory license, legacy artists get nothing for digital radio if their works predate 1972. Entire channels are dedicated to music from 40s, 50s, and 60s where no artist gets compensated, losing estimated $60 million in royalties in 2013. Many can’t make a living touring/selling records because of their age. This legislation would fix disparity in state/federal law.  Some of the biggest digital radio companies take advantage of this loophole. 
Performance rights for terrestrial radio: the long fight.  Nearly all the industrialized countries compensate for radio play, but we’re like North Korea and Iran.  (I fully support this reform, though I’d rather move us out of the holdout category for paid maternity leave first.)  Also we can’t take advantage of reciprocity in foreign countries.  Session artists etc. really need this income.
SOPA: where can we make change on piracy? Voluntary agreements show a lot of promise.  Internet infringement costs $250 billion/year and robs American workers of 750,000 jobs.  Lose $16.3 billion in earnings/year to infringement.  Copyright Alert system is voluntary, with progressive series of notifications.  Fair, user-friendly, with built-in consumer protections.  After 1 year, the program has been smooth and successful, with 1.3 million copyright alerts.  Slated to double notices in the coming year. 
Voluntary efforts can also improve notice and takedown’s whackamole problem.  Current system is ineffective, forcing industry to employ armies of employees just to issue takedowns. The individual creator doesn’t have armies.  Marie Schneider testified that she struggles against endless sites offering her music illegally, and takedown system is frustrating because when she issues a takedown the music reappears on similar or even the same site.  PTO is now conducting roundtables on how to make these work better. These notices should at least be standardized.
Role of search.  Congress was concerned that infringing sites are still prioritized in Google search results, and autocomplete makes finding infringing content easier, even after Google’s algorithm change in 2012.  At that hearing, she put “watch 12 Years a Slave” on her iPad, and the first/second sites were infringing.  (Now the first result is Google Play, BTW.)  Not much has changed.  Search engines play a critical role in leading consumers to infringing sites—more than 4 billion referrals a year, and millions sought infringing content during one month alone. Search engines could do a better job of deprioritizing illegal sites, since over 90 legit services download/stream content. Voluntary agreements need to find a way to make this happen.
The administration plays a key role.  IPEC: Victoria Espinel was key in coordinating Copyright Alert system.
CO: Congress is central to 21st Century CO.  Supports funding the effort to have multiyear technical upgrade, including digital repository and reengineering recordation.  Result: $1.2 million more than CO’s overall budget request, with $1.5 million for the project. Now it’s up to the Senate.
Stories of artists who have to tour because they can’t afford not to, or die in poverty because they don’t get radio royalties.  (Artists are just an instance of our large social transfer of risk to individuals.  How about a guaranteed basic national income? Why should you have to write a hit song to avoid dying in poverty?)

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