New Copyright Boss Comes into Times of Change

Lora Bentley

When the Copyright Act first became law, the ideas of online publishing, digital media and peer-to-peer networks were beyond our imagination. So when each of those things became reality and it became clear that the law needed to catch up with technology, Congress enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But in the time since then, copyright has stepped even further into the spotlight.


Napster and LimeWire have come and gone. The Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America are not afraid to resort to the courts to prevent their members' content from being stolen. Viacom sued Google over copyright issues, and the resulting decision helped define the scope of the DMCA's safe harbor provisions.



More recently, Righthaven and its crusade against individual bloggers and small businesses have forced the courts to take a closer look at who can sue to enforce copyright, and the body of case law addressing fair use has grown. Further, lawmakers are considering even stronger copyright protections than those currently in place.


Copyright is certainly changing and as Ars Technica reported last month, that's the environment in which Maria Pallante takes the reins as the first new Register of Copyrights in 16 years. It seems like a lot to take in, but as she told Ars writer Nate Anderson:

I always start with the enforcement issues online because if there isn't effective enforcement possibility, then there is no meaningful exclusive right and then copyright doesn't work.

In other words, if copyright holders can't enforce exclusive rights in the first place, what's the point in trying to limit them or make exceptions thereto? That's what will be guiding Pallante as she takes the U.S. Copyright Office into as-yet-uncharted territory.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jul 21, 2011 8:50 AM Gerald Gerald  says:

What I will never understand is how they are trying to protect copyrights of those who stand to make the most money, yet when Facebook puts in its Terms of Agreement that it owns everything you publish using their service, none of the lawmakers cry foul.

Jul 21, 2011 12:57 PM Ken Ken  says:

The endless cycle of bad laws. Proponents of a law claim that more enforcement will solve the problem. When the enforcement inevitably fails the proponents claim that more enforcement will solve the problem. When that inevitably fails the proponents claim that more enforcement will solve the problem.......

Jul 22, 2011 7:32 AM Di Di  says: in response to Gerald

Gerald:  Actually, that part about Facebook isn't true.  I suggest you reread the terms of service.  You own your content, but if you publish it on Facebook, you grant them license to use your content.  Huge difference.

Regarding the copyright laws for Internet use, some of these companies are trying to prevent people from even linking to their articles.  That goes against the Internet structure.  Links are simply an address, which is a fact, and a simple fact is not subject to copyright, nor should it be.  Also, fair use allows people to cite articles in support of what they write.  Most online publishing companies allow their writers to use up to 50 words of quotes with proper credit.  This should also be allowed.  Republishing most or all of an article without permission and/or compensation should never be allowed until proper copyrights expire.

Most online writers earn their money on royalties, so content brings in money the longer it is up.  If someone duplicates that content (unless the duplication is 50 words or less), then Google penalizes pageranks which could hurt the potential profit of the creator.  This is what the copyright office needs to work with.

The problem is that you have people making the laws who don't even really understand online publishing and pageranking. Sad.


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