Public Knowledge Proposes New Copyright Reform Act
Public Knowledge Proposes New Copyright Reform Act
Public Knowledge Proposes New Copyright Reform Act

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    Saying that, “We need a bolder vision that starts to break down the barriers to free culture – that starts to break the vise grip the few and powerful have on ownership,” Public Knowledge President and Co-Founder Gigi B. Sohn announced a new five-part Copyright Reform Act.

    Sohn said the discussion draft for the model legislation proposes five changes that “are to intended update copyright law for the digital age and in doing so tip the balance back in favor of the constitutional mandate that copyright protection 'promote the progress of science and the useful arts.'”

    The general topics for copyright change are to:

    1) strengthen fair use, including reforming outrageously high statutory damages, which deter innovation and creativity;
    2) reform the DMCA to permit circumvention of digital locks for lawful purposes;
    3) update the limitations and exceptions to copyright protection to better conform with how digital technologies work;
    4) provide recourse for people and companies who are recklessly accused of copyright infringement and who are recklessly sent improper DMCA take-down notices; and
    5) streamline arcane music licensing laws to encourage new and better business models for selling music.

    Of those, the first one, dealing with fair use, has been posted here. Other materials at the site include Sohn's Feb. 13 speech to the Free Culture conference, and background papers on the copyright changes. More material will be added as additional sections are introduced over the coming weeks.

    The fair use section proposes three reforms. One would allow for “incidental” or “noncommercial and personal” use of copyright material as fair use. This would cover instances such as the famous case in which a woman made a video of her baby but had the video taken down because there were 29 seconds of a Prince song in the background, and would help documentary filmmakers who want film a scene but can't because of music playing in the background. The other changes would change sections of the law dealing with fair use damage awards.

    The project was undertaken in conjunction with the Stanford Cyberlaw Clinic and the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at the UC Berkeley School of Law. Samuelson Clinic Director Jennifer M. Urban said: “The recent explosion in digital tools and open communication platforms drives innovation, creativity and access to information and has been profoundly positive for society—but uncertainty about liability can stymie creators and innovators. Updating the fair use doctrine to best support these activities while protecting copyright holders will help copyright fulfill its purpose to stimulate expression and encourage innovation.”

    Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at or 405-249-9435.