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House Panel Sets Aside Copyright Bill
The legislative journey of the massive House of Representatives copyright bill (HR 6052) came to a well-deserved end on September. 27th. Much of the Copyright Modernization Act was well-intentioned, in trying to come up with a streamlined licensing scheme for online music. However, other parts of the bill would have limited the rights of consumers to record music for their own use, particularly from satellite and terrestrial radio services. And it would have set the dangerous precedent of licensing temporary copies of music in the buffers of computers or other storage devices.
There were many provisions that could have hurt artists. For example, the bill would have preempted state laws dealing with payment of music royalties, overturning an agreement made by N.Y. Attorney Gen. Eliot Spitzer in 2004 that paid $25 million in fees to artists that had been held by record labels and publishers. Spitzer's office sent a letter to the Committee opposing the bill.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., (R-Wis.) called up the bill at the mark up session, and then Intellectual Property Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) said he was withdrawing the bill from the agenda. Smith said he didn't think the bill could be enacted this year, and he wanted to save fellow Committee members from what could be a bruising series of votes on amendments. He vowed to bring the bill back next year. Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), the senior Judiciary Committee Democrat, said that bringing the bill next year would give the committee a chance to explore many of the issues involved more thoroughly.
PK was pleased the bill was withdrawn. While we liked the idea music-licensing reform, we clearly thought the provisions of the bill aimed at consumers and innovators are harmful. We have to make certain that consumers retain their right to record music for personal use and that they will have the benefit of new services that allow them to do so.
Here's Alex's report from the hearing room:
IP3 Award Winners Announced
We're pleased to announce the winners of the 2006 IP3 awards. They are:
Yochai Benkler, a professor of law at Yale Law School, is the winner for his work on Information Policy. His most recent book, "The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom," which was also published as a Wiki on his web site, examines how decentralized production of information has brought revolutionary changes to the economy. Benkler is known as a prolific writer and commentator on the nature of the information commons.
Blake and Jason Krikorian are the winners in the Internet Protocol category. Their company, Sling Media, has revolutionized the television industry through the Slingbox device, which allows consumers with a broadband connection to watch home-town TV from anywhere in the world. More than their technical achievements, however, the Krikorians have shown a willingness, unique among new companies, to engage in the technology policy world.
Jessica Litman, law professor at the University of Michigan, is winner in the Intellectual Property category. She is one of the country's foremost scholars on the topic of copyright. Her most recent book is "Digital Copyright." She is a forceful advocate for protecting consumer rights to personal use of media and for drawing limits on the policies of media companies that encroach on those rights.
The awards will be given at our October 19 fundraiser/awards ceremony, when Gigi will also present the special President's Award.
More details here:
Our October 19 fundraiser/IP3 awards ceremony is coming up fast, so let's renew our request to you: Please support PK. We're in the middle of the year's biggest issue -- the fight to protect the free and open Internet we've all come to appreciate. Going up against the well-funded telephone and cable companies isn't easy as they try to extend their control over what had been an open Internet for all. If that's not enough, we've got to defend our ground on the broadcast flag against the continuing assaults from the content industry who are pressing not only for the TV version, but also for content controls on digital and satellite radio and for restricting recording with analog devices. Please help. There are many ways you can support PK here: http://www.publicknowledge.org/support
We thank you for your support!
On September 26, the House cleared legislation (HR 683) that bill
sponsors argue is needed to protect the value of trademarks.
While we were able to obtain some important changes in the bill's
language, the bottom line remains that instead of having to prove
harm from a potentially confusing trademark, companies now will
only have to show a likelihood of harm -- a much easier case.
Alex's comments on the bill are here:
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is taking
another look at the dreaded broadcast treaty, but it's a little
difficult to determine what's going on. Instead of the pro-forma
vote to proceed to a diplomatic conference on the treaty, the
WIPO General Assembly decided that more discussions were in order
to resolve some of the ongoing disputes. The U.S. delegation
was one of those pushing for more work on the treaty. Gigi's
latest take on it is here:
It looks as if the Senate will recess for the elections without taking up the telecom bill. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said he thinks it could be brought up in the "lame duck" session after the elections. But with only a couple of the 12 spending bills having been passed so far, it's looking less likely that the Senate will get to the telecom bill.
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