US lawmakers plan sweeping review of copyright

The House Judiciary Committee will launch a broad review in the coming months

By , IDG News Service |  IT Management

"We welcome the Chairman's proposal to examine how best our copyright laws can, as the Constitution requires, promote the progress of science and the useful arts," Sherwin Siy, the group's vice president of Legal Affairs, said in a statement. "As such, we hope that Congress and the Copyright Office will work to balance the interests of artists with those of their audiences and the public in general, ensuring that the ultimate goal of the law is met in promoting innovation and creativity."

Goodlatte's announcement comes a month after Maria Pallante, the current U.S. registrar of copyrights, called for a review of the current copyright act.

Speaking at Columbia Law School on March 4, Pallante outlined a number of issues that she thinks should be examined. They include what constitutes an identical copy in the digital age, the balance between enforcement and free expression, and licensing. Later in March, she delivered the same message before the House Judiciary Committee.

"There's a whole bunch of things that Ballante has proposed, and they run the gamut," said Sina Khanifar, a digital rights activist and founder of FixtheDMCA.org. "I think she is very much looking for broad reforms across the base of copyright."

Khanifar works on issues related to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), enacted in 1998 and the last major revision of copyright law in the United States. Several controversial sections of the DMCA have made it something of a rallying cry for those campaigning for a new copyright regime.

The controversial parts of the law include Section 1201, which makes it a crime to circumvent technological measures protecting copyrighted material.

Khanifar and others say the language is over broad for a provision that was intended to make cracking digital rights management technology a crime. The section has been cited in arguments for keeping consumers from circumventing any kind of software lock, including recently in cases over the unlocking of cellphones.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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