Innovation in America: The Role of Copyrights

Location: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

Innovation in America: The Role of Copyrights

Opening Statements

Statement of Ranking Member Melvin L. Watt
House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet
for the Hearing on Innovation in America: The Role of Copyrights

July 25, 2013

     Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

     And I want to again thank Chairman Goodlatte for launching this comprehensive review of U.S. copyright law and the challenges of the digital age.

     I believe that this is a very important undertaking and that we have a unique opportunity to, not only advance the debate in this area, but to guide it in the right direction.

     In my mind, a comprehensive review starts with a fundamental appreciation of the constitutional foundations of copyright law and policy. By reexamining the first principles that gave life to copyright protection, we can better develop policy that ensures that those principles are honored.

     Today's panel represents individual authors and creators from diverse segments of America that rely on copyright. It is not only helpful, but important that we hear directly from creators on how copyright law and policy is working for them.

     There can be little doubt that creativity and innovation are at an apex in the 21st century and that many economic interests are intertwined with the interests and livelihoods of creators. But copyright law and policy should not be about preserving existing business models. Nor should it be about accommodating emerging business models. Ensuring that the intellectual labor of our creative communities is appropriately stimulated and compensated will guarantee that the public will continue to benefit from the enrichment the creators provide.

     Recognizing that policy should develop around the creator is sometimes easier said than done. We would be naïve to not acknowledge that there are entrenched interests that cannot be disregarded in this review. But a careful examination of the constitutional and historical underpinnings of U.S. copyright law is a start.

     My vision of this comprehensive review also includes an assessment of the international copyright framework. Appreciating that framework in this global, digital environment will equip us with a better understanding of how best to reinforce our constitutional objectives. It also provides perspective on how and why our policies have developed historically and where and why those policies may have gone astray.

     One area where copyright law has strayed from both our constitutional foundations and international norms concerns the recognition of a performance right in sound recordings. I, and other members of this panel have long advocated and have the scars to show for it, for a correction of this historical anomaly. That is why today I am announcing my intention to circulate to my colleagues and them to join me as original cosponsors of a bill that simply recognizes a performance right in sound recordings before the August recess. I believe that doing so will highlight how the law can take the wrong turn if policymakers fail to embrace the principles embodied in the constitutional protection of intellectual property.

     The story of performance rights, although related to the field of music, is instructive in other areas of copyright as well. As we continue our comprehensive review of copyright, I think that story is a compelling one – one that reflects a departure from centering policy development on the intellectual labors of the artists and responding instead to market forces that, while relevant, should not be in a position to completely extinguish rights recognized and honored internationally.

     The real world impact for American musical artists is not only extreme, it's unfair. It denies them access to performance rights royalties already earned offshore. These funds sit unclaimed due to our inability to simply afford these artists what they deserve—legal recognition of a performance right. I think as we continue our review, we will see that in other areas as well, when we have robust protections for the rights of the creators, this will incentivize the parties to negotiate in good faith, enter into compensation agreements domestically, and heighten the public's access and enjoyment of the products of the creative community.

     I look forward to hearing from the witnesses and yield back.

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
for the Hearing on Innovation in America: The Role of Copyrights Before the Subcommittee on Courts, Internet, and Intellectual Property

Thursday, July 25, 2013, at 9:30 a.m.
2141 Rayburn House Office Building

     Copyright law plays a critical role in job creation and in promoting the health of our nation's economy.

     For example, IP-intensive industries generated nearly 35% of our gross domestic product and was responsible for 27.1 million jobs, according to the Commerce Department.

     A key element to the success of copyright law, however, is that it must work for both the owners of content as well as the users.

     Today we will focus on copyright and the creative community's contribution to innovation.  And next week we will shift our focus to the contributions that technology makes next week.

     Content is available in many more ways than it was in 1976 when a major portion of the current copyright statute was enacted.

     As we consider these issues over the next two hearings, there are several principles that I recommend we keep in mind.

     To begin with, we should review how copyright law can be strengthened to protect artists and creators.

     Earlier this year, we heard from Maria Pallante, Register of Copyrights, about specific recommendations we should consider for legislative review.

     For instance, Maria Pallante, identified the following matters that should be addressed:

  • providing a public performance right for sound recordings;
  • developing a system to facilitate the use of orphaned works; and
  • strengthening enforcement of copyright protections by making the unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a criminal felony.

     Each of these suggestions would improve  copyright law and help protect creators.  Accordingly, I would like the witnesses to give their thoughts on these proposals.

     In addition, copyright law must ensure that creators have a fair chance to be compensated for their creative efforts.

     Adequately compensating artists and creators for their work promotes creativity.  This creativity can also benefit many of the new technologies like the ones we see on the Internet.

     In his testimony, Tor Hansen, Co-Owner and Co-Founder of YepRoc Records, describes the fact that we still do not have a performance right and the reason why that needs to change.

     Performers whose songs are played on the radio provide their services without compensation, and this sets our nation apart from every other country, except China, North Korea and Iran.

     This exemption from paying a performance royalty to artists no longer makes any sense and unfairly deprives artists of the compensation they deserve for their work.

     Finally, the Judiciary Committee should  continue to study ways that we can prevent piracy and fight violations of copyright law.

     An important aspect of this process will be continuing to educate the public about piracy and copyright law.  Today the Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research released a report about consumer opinions on IP and counterfeit/pirated goods.  The report notes that 86 percent of U.S. citizens believe that protecting IP is a good way to encourage innovation and creativity.  Another finding from the report is that 89 percent of U.S. citizens view the sale of counterfeit and pirated goods as negatively affecting American jobs.  I look forward to reviewing this report and believe that it will be helpful in our evaluation of this issue.

     We must continue to work to fight piracy.  A study by the Institute for Policy and Innovation found that the U.S. economy lost $12.5 billion dollars and more than 70,000 lost jobs annually by American workers due to piracy of sound recordings.

     We must also monitor how other countries are enforcing intellectual property laws.  Chinese piracy and counterfeiting of intellectual property cost American businesses approximately $48 billion in 2009, according to a report by the United States International Trade Commission.

     As we examine the copyright system to ensure that it meet the needs of creators and the public, I  believe that copyright law should be guided by technology-neutral principles.

     I will continue to work to ensure that creators receive adequate protections and look forward to hearing from our witnesses today.

Ms. Sandra Aistars, Executive Director, Copyright Alliance

Mr. Eugene Mopsik, Executive Director, American Society of Media Photographers

Mr. Tor Hansen, Co-Founder, Yep Roc Records / Red Eye Distribution

Mr. John Lapman, General Counsel, Getty Images

Mr. William Sherak, President, Stereo D


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