Today, the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force released its “White Paper on Remixes, First Sale, and Statutory Damages: Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy.” Public Knowledge commends the Department for recognizing the importance of a balanced copyright law, and that copyright law's onerous statutory damages provisions need to be changed.
On Monday Public Knowledge's Vice President of Legal Affairs, Sherwin Siy, will testify before the House Judiciary Committee in New York in the hearing titled, "First Sale under Title 17." Siy will explain that the first sale doctrine is a fundamental principle that balances people's basic rights to their personal property with authors' rights to their intellectual property.
It's Copyright Week! From today through Saturday, a number of groups
around the Web will be exchanging ideas, information, and actions about
how to fix copyright law for the better. Each day will be devoted to a
different aspect of copyright law. For more on Copyright Week, see here.
Today's focus is on how copyright law balances the rights of someone who wrote a copyrighted work and someone who bought a copy of it. This post looks at how fine print can throw that balance out of whack.
Our new PKThinks white paper takes a look at one aspect of the changing relationship between copyright owners and owners of copyrighted things: the first sale doctrine.
Today, we’re releasing a white paper called “Copies, Rights, and Copyrights.” It’s about the conflict between the owner of a copy of a work—like you, when you buy a paperback—and the owner of the copyright in that work – the author, or the author’s publisher. It’s often an invisible conflict, because to us, the basic boundaries in that relationship are so customary as to be obvious: the copyright holder gets to prevent the book being copied, and the owner of the copy gets to use that copy any other way she wants.
But things get trickier as we start looking at digital copies—in particular, copies that are sold as downloads instead of on physical media like CDs or DVDs.
That’s because most of the ways in which we use digital media require making copies—just reading an ebook or listening to an mp3 will make additional copies within the device as it is being buffered or cached. Transferring ownership of a copy from one person to another also requires making copies—unless you’re handing over your entire hard drive to someone.
Maria Pallante, the Register of Copyrights (and thus, head of the Copyright Office) was the sole witness in a hearing today with an ambitious title: "The Register's Call for Updates to U.S. Copyright Law." (An archived copy of the hearing is here) Her testimony provides a guide to the sorts of changes she thinks are necessary in the coming years.