Government Shutdown and Copyright


copyright (Photo credit: A. Diez Herrero)

Late on Monday afternoon September 30, the Copyright Office released the results of a study that was two-years in the making.  The report deals with the idea of establishing an alternative system for settling smallish copyright disputes outside of filing in federal court.  Y’all know my inner copyright diva did some backflips over this news when I received the email notification from the Library of Congress! Yes, I know what you’re thinking – I do get email updates from the Copyright Office.  I’m just that cool.

I excitedly clicked on the link and started reviewing the 200+ page document.  Because of the length, I made a mental note to check back when I had more time to digest it thoroughly.  Unfortunately for me, my “more time” came late on Tuesday night – after the government shutdown.  If you go to the Copyright Office website, visitors get a nice little notice informing them that the copyright’s website and all of the material contained on that website is unavailable due to the shutdown.  So, while I would love to give you all a more thorough review of what I see to be the pros and cons of this system – I just cannot.  Apparently the website is not allowed to work either during this shutdown, and the information contained on it is unavailable.

However, what I can share with you all is what I picked up quickly in my initial scan and by way of the email from the Library of Congress announcing the report.  The report recommends that a tribunal be created that would administer proceedings online and via teleconfrencing for small infringment cases.  Small is defined by cases having a value of no more than $30,000.00 in damages.  Those that received notice of the claimants choice to use this venue could opt-out or affirmatively agree to take part.  Discovery would be limited and one of the “judges” to these proceedings would have experience in alternative dispute resolution.

My initial thoughts are that this system could be a good thing for artists who are wanting to protect their material, but who may not have the means to file a federal action.  In theory, and without reading the complete document, I can see how this could help and create a forum for broader education related to copyright.  However, I cannot help but wonder if this major reform is something that is feasible or a big picture item for Congress considering the current political climate.  Said another way, in the big picture of Syria, the Affordable Healthcare Act, the debt ceiling and unemployment – is major copyright reform something this Congress is prepared to take up?  I’m just not sure.  Let’s see how long remains unavailable.    Look for another article soon when I can more thoroughly digest this proposal.

What do you think?  Did you have time to read the proposal?  Any thoughts from my artist readers?  Share below in the Comments section!

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