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Friday Aug 09, 2013

We Want to Hear from You on Copyright Policies in the Digital Economy

Guest blog by Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs Shira Perlmutter

The Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) last week issued a green paper on copyright, and I’d like to take a moment to highlight the paper’s core content and goals. The paper, titled Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy (Green Paper), represents the most thorough and comprehensive analysis of digital copyright policy issued by any administration since 1995. Along with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the USPTO played a key role in its production, from gathering public comments starting in 2010 through the paper’s drafting and release.

The Green Paper calls for new public input on critical policy issues that are central to our nation’s economic growth, cultural development and job creation. It is intended to serve as a reference for stakeholders, a blueprint for further action, and a contribution to global copyright debates. As promised in the paper, we will soon be reaching out to the public for views on a variety of topics. Please stay tuned for announcements about how to share your thoughts, insights, and recommendations.

In recent years, the debates over copyright have become increasingly contentious. Too often copyright and technology policies are seen as pitted against each other, as if a meaningful copyright system is antithetical to the innovative power of the Internet, or an open Internet will result in the end of copyright. We do not believe such a dichotomy is necessary or appropriate. The goals espoused in the paper— ensuring a meaningful and effective copyright system that continues to provide the necessary incentives for creative expression, preserving the technological innovation and free flow of information made possible by the Internet, and delivering creative content in the broadest possible fashion to consumers—are ones that we think can, and must, be accomplished in tandem.

By intention, the Green Paper does not set out substantive policy recommendations, except where the administration is already on record with a stated position. Rather, it seeks to provide a thorough and objective review of the lay of the land—describing changes that have already occurred, identifying areas where more work should be done, and setting out paths to move that work forward. The paper expresses support for efforts underway to address some of the open issues in other forums—notably Congressional attention to music licensing, the Copyright Office’s work on orphan works and mass digitization, and the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator’s facilitation of cooperative efforts by stakeholders to curb online enforcement.

We appreciate the encouraging words we’ve heard from many stakeholders on all sides. In the coming weeks, we will begin to move forward on the specific items outlined in the paper for IPTF action:

  • Establishing a multistakeholder dialogue on improving the operation of the notice and takedown system for removing infringing content from the Internet under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
  • Soliciting public comment and convening roundtables on:
    • The legal framework for the creation of remixes—user-generated content that uses portions of copyrighted works in creative ways.
    • The relevance and scope of the first sale doctrine in the digital age.
    • The appropriate calibration of statutory damages in the context of (1) individual file sharers and (2) secondary liability for large-scale infringement.
    • Whether and how the government can facilitate the further development of a robust online licensing environment, including access to comprehensive public and private databases of rights information.

We hope that the full range of stakeholders continue to engage energetically and productively. To develop the best possible copyright policy for the Internet, we need to hear from all affected interests, including those who create works, those who distribute them, and those who enjoy them.


I am in full support of your mission and want to thank you for addressing this issue. Ginger Brooks

Posted by Ginger Brooks on August 09, 2013 at 01:13 PM EDT #

Copyright is massively abused. The term of copyright should be limited, preferably to 25 years from publication, with no exceptions.

Posted by Law Offices of M. E. Cavanaugh on August 10, 2013 at 07:21 AM EDT #

I feel that anyone sending information via internet to a recipient by e-mail that holds information to what is not yet trade marked or copy written should first take their work to a notary and have it stamped and dated for confirmation of authentication of the author by the date stamped on his material. A wittiness's signature also notarized on that date would also be an added protection factor for the author or inventor prior to submitting his work. [Notarize your work prior to showing or sharing with anyone!]

Posted by Richard R. Zdeb on August 10, 2013 at 10:09 AM EDT #

I tweeted I thought making illegal streaming a felony, after I hear the news. I very much stand by that statement, because ultimately it doesn't solve the problem. Another parent and his/her child will made an example by some large corporation in a courtroom in their effort to stop something that isn't stoppable as long as computers, or the internet exist. The average household can't afford lawyer fees for an over zealous company trying to make a statement because their 12 year old was sharing a video of some Nintendo game play with their buddy. Making available the means of licensing a video or software to share with other people (which is what they want to do anyways) controlled by the content creator on different platforms creates a middle ground that should be fair to both parties, as long as the content creators are fair about it.

Posted by Chris Denny on August 11, 2013 at 02:37 PM EDT #

The current copyright duration is too short. Other forms of property like real estate and trademark have much longer duration of protections. Similarly, copyright law should be modified to give the same level of protection, that is, indefinite copyright protection to authors/owners of copyrighted content. The rationale for the current duration (life+x years) should also be explained (how did they arrive at this duration)?

Posted by Tom Wels on August 20, 2013 at 02:02 AM EDT #

Copyright is too long, it should be absolutely limited to the lifetime of the creator, and never longer than 10-20 years maximum. This concept that Mickey Mouse is still under copyright until 105 years after creation is insane, a sign of the corruption of our corporate government. Money buys copyright law. This "we want to hear from you" is useless lip service.

Posted by Kris Tilford on August 20, 2013 at 03:12 AM EDT #

A good copy right law optimizes productivity, creativity, innovation and education. It should allow a company to protect their creation for a limited time so that investments are worth wile. Copy right is necessary to assure that content producers like artists, writers or scientists get compensated. Copy right should never go beyond the life time of the persons having created the art or science. For example, books of authors who are no more alive need to be in the common domain. Fair use policies are needed, especially when the work is used for nonprofit work or education. Common ground procedures like mathematical results or basic mechanics like exchanging information or algorithms or objects created by nature like plants or genes should not be under any copy right rule.

Posted by Oliver Knill on August 20, 2013 at 03:13 AM EDT #

First, why is the USPTO soliciting input related to changes in copyright? Aside from "software shouldn't be patented, it should be protected by copyright like other written works", I can't think of anything useful to say about copyright where the USPTO would be involved.

Posted by drakaan on August 20, 2013 at 03:34 AM EDT #

Priority number one should be restoring a robust and growing public domain. Once upon a time, adding valuable content to the public domain was seen as enrichment of us all, and a contribution to posterity; today it's too often regarded as nothing more than "lost revenue" for legacy copyright-holders. This needs to change. It's absurd that we are to the point where even the Library of Congress is reduced to attaching "use at your own risk" disclaimers to parts of its collection, even 150-year-old photographs.

Posted by Matt Kuhns on August 20, 2013 at 04:25 AM EDT #

Copyright has grown too long and is restricting creativity. We need to add progressive renewal taxes to extend copy rights. Original copy right for 10 years is free. Each 10 year extension is taxed at a percent of sales that escalates. So the second 10 year copyright is taxed at 10% of sales. The third 10 years is taxed at 20% of sales. Copyright can be maintained indefinitely however taxes would be 100% of sales after 100years. No criminal penalties for copyright infringement. No one should face jail for making a copy. No penalties for downloading anything offered for free on the internet. Down loaders do not have possession of original works required to make copies. ISPs must maintain ID information on all uploaders. Not being able to produce uploader ID information makes ISPs liable for any infringement. Uploaders however are liable to governement for 2 x the copyright tax and to the copyright holder for 2x the selling price for all downloaded copies plus legal fees if found to have violated the copyright. Copyright holders or government may bring suite however if they loose they must pay the defendants legal fees. Strengthen first sale rules by making it Illegal to encumber digital media with digital rights management locking media to one machine or location.

Posted by Ron Woodward on August 20, 2013 at 04:30 AM EDT #

I'm not holding my breath for reform. Still 25 to 30 years tops for patents and copyrights retroactively should be the order of the day. Anything else is just feeding in to mega corporations who are constantly merging under smaller roofs till some day it will just be one global company running everything.

Posted by Sean Darrenkamp on August 20, 2013 at 04:39 AM EDT #

- Copyright should not be onerous for the average citizen. - Copyright is explicitly for the public good, as spelled out by the Constitution. - Imagine copyright reduced to zero, simulate the effect on "the Progress of Science and useful Arts," and slowly add back copyright only as much as needed. - As a filmmaker and programmer for decades, whom many have called "creative," I can attest that everything is a remix anyway (, so artists should not be protected at the expense of other interests of people

Posted by Andrew Banks on August 20, 2013 at 04:48 AM EDT #

Public libraries should be allowed to go fully digital. Would save us taxpayers a lot of money, and make the local library much, much better. No more expense of housing a very limited collection of physical media, and tracking borrowings. No need for returns. No more loss from damage to physical media. Card catalogs are a poor second to computer searchability. I think copyright should be abolished. I believe copyright law is the biggest impediment to the vision of digital public libraries for everyone.

Posted by Dr. Brenton Chapin on August 20, 2013 at 04:49 AM EDT #

1) Eliminate the DMCA. It is, simply put, terrible legislation. According to the Constitution, power rests with the people, not corporations. And with the DMCA, there is no due process, a further violation of basic rights. 2) Limit copyright to short terms, no more than a third of a normal lifetime, so that orphan works can be preserved, not locked up. If copyright simply must be extended, make it nearly as expensive as the profits that might be generated from the work. 3) Eliminate criminal penalties and limit monetary penalties for small copyright infringement.

Posted by Michael Keller on August 20, 2013 at 04:55 AM EDT #

An argument can be made that digital information does not degrade over time. However, computer hardware, operating systems and other technologies change over time, so the digital works which depend on those technologies effectively have a finite lifetime. So, the usefulness of digital information degrades over time. License agreements are too much of a burden on the end-user. Companies ought to pay a tax of 1% of their profits on that product for every 1000 words in their license agreements. People get bored waiting for trials in jury duty. They should be able to log on to a kiosk and serve as jurors in copyright lawsuits.

Posted by Brett Kelford on August 20, 2013 at 05:47 AM EDT #

I invent things all the time -- it is my job. There is simply no way to avoid inventing things others have already invented. There are only so many ways to do basic things. By allowing patents on these ideas my job ceases to be inventing and all my efforts could be undone by someone who builds nothing but who convinced someone else their ideas were unique. Performance is measured by results: if you aren't usng a patent, you should lose it. What is more, the standard for software patents should be at the level of applications: not algorithms. Until that change, we live in the dark ages of software engineering where I and others like me are persecuted for merely thinking creatively.

Posted by Howard Cohen on August 20, 2013 at 05:49 AM EDT #

I would exhort the IPTF to read “Against Intellectual Monopoly” by Boldrin & Levine, UCLA, 2008.

Posted by Trevin Beattie on August 20, 2013 at 05:56 AM EDT #

I think the government's time would be better spent creating laws which force content creators and copyright holders to use fair pricing and timed release models. Whether or not anti-piracy groups or the government, or the copyright holders themselves want to admit it, a large part of piracy and the kind that causes the most "counted damages" (lets not discuss if those would actually translate to direct sales eventually or not) come from those who either don't have access to content because they live somewhere it's not shown, work at a time it's not show (for movies/tv), or the price is often so high that no one except large corporations can afford it (for a lot of software). My days of piracy are over but when I was younger I had no means to obtain software such as Visual Studio, etc. which I needed in order to learn programming and become a software developer. I don't think that the creators of this software (Microsoft) would have cared if a middle school student stole their software and now became a contributing member of society who buys every update to the software now that they can afford it. Hardening piracy laws is not the solution, because it inhibits learning. First we need to ensure people have access to content and the ability to learn for a fair price. Then we can work on blocking access to illegal content more.

Posted by Robert Noack on August 20, 2013 at 06:13 AM EDT #

Abolish copyright. Supply and demand make copyright completely unworkable in the digital age. When the marginal cost of a good is zero, the marginal price of that good will be zero. You cannot legislate around basic laws of economics. It's time for artists to find other ways to monetize their time and skills. The only alternative to aboliton of copyright will be a war on copyright infringement that will destroy our liberties. And the Copyright hawks will still lose, just like they lost the war on drugs.

Posted by Hatta on August 20, 2013 at 06:19 AM EDT #

The penalties currently in place, if I recall, were not intended for individuals who share works illegally. We need two sets of penalties - one for companies [maybe even sliding to adjust for the company size], and one for the consumer much, much smaller than what they say now. $250k per infringement maximum for an individual is absolutely INSANE, period.

Posted by Travelsonic on August 20, 2013 at 06:34 AM EDT #

unfair license agreements can and should be overturned. do not allow any content creator use any terms they see fit. they have already demonstrated bias in their favor that gives them unprecedented control over a consumer's property(namely their computers) that they didn't have before the extremely broad DMCA. they have shown they are willing to prosecute children, for the sake of boosting their profit margin. you are responsible for this.

Posted by anthony garza on August 20, 2013 at 06:38 AM EDT #

I feel that the current copyright system has fallen prey to litigation companies that produce nothing, yet hold entire industries hostage. It is causing the United States to lose it's competitive advantage in many areas. This is a policy failure, and unless the USPTO acts, this country will fall behind as others such as China and India forge ahead ignoring some of the idiotic patent rules that do nothing other than to stifle innovation. I support a rewriting of copyright rules that would ensure innovation remains a possibility here instead of forcing companies to develop and create their products overseas.

Posted by Christopher Goff on August 20, 2013 at 06:54 AM EDT #

Foremost, I would like to point out current copyright laws have criminalized most of the country. The first thought would be to move in a direction that doesn't make every citizen a criminal. Secondly, copyright laws were introduced to protect the creators of content, not monopolize content. My point is, the length of copyrights, needs to be drastically reduced, at minimum, to the death of the creator. Personally, I'd like to see it set up as death of the creator/20 years, whichever occurs first. Lastly, break up the monopolies of creative content, who are currently directing copyright legislation through lobbying. One possible way, don't assign copyrights to corporations. Allow licenses to be sold to companies from the copyright holder, but never as an exclusive license.

Posted by Norm Paulsen on August 20, 2013 at 07:20 AM EDT #

please end this insanity of methods patents, software patents and copyrights it is an disgrace to out country that poses severe handicaps to our economic development and well being by stifling innovation and technological progress in every industry and scientific endeavor only the exploiters of our legal system for personal advantage stand to gain from continuing the status quo we must abolish all methods patents and all trivial patenting of obvious tweaks to established processes the human body and its fundamental biological processes, for one, should be declared off limits to patents, as a fundamental human right scientific discovery and extending human knowledge should never be a patents opportunity our future depends on a rational patenting system that reflects the fundamental purposes for which it was developed, the extension of human endeavors not their limiting and the greater public good rather than private enrichment by the few

Posted by michael daniec on August 20, 2013 at 07:42 AM EDT #

Lengthy copyright terms errode innovation. Also, attempting to stop piracy is not a viable solution. Offer consumers the ability to access content online at a reasonable price with limited or no restrictions, and the money will follow.

Posted by Jacob Lama on August 20, 2013 at 08:00 AM EDT #

This document is interesting but you failed to tackle the main problem above all: the actual duration of the copyright. Originally set to 14 years renewable just once to now close to a century, it's probably the most ridiculous and obsolete part of it. You've talked of balancing copyright for the great of everybody: well here you failed to balance its duration. You *have* to come back to 14 years. It IS the first and foremost step! The second point that you forget again blatantly is to repeat that copyright is never EVER a right given to the author but a *privilege* granted to it. Why is it important? Because it means it's less important than just rights (like freedom of speech, etc...) and therefore any laws about enforcing copyright should *always* withdraw themselves face to actual rights.

Posted by Nicolas Dufour on August 20, 2013 at 08:06 AM EDT #

I think it's great that you want to hear from stakeholders, but 1000 character responses to you 100+ page paper seem a little asymmetric. What are your real plans to collect comments "energetically and productively"? Might make good thing to close the blog entry with a link to. Copyrights and patents need to be sufficient to motivate creators to share their results. While patents may have balance issues, particularly with software, copyrights are completely out of balance. What does it mean to "buy" a copy of a copyrighted work, in the digital world? An IEEE group has been studying this for over a year, and yet you've never contacted them. Lobbying by rights holders, seeking the right to make money forever from the same idea, ultimately discourages creativity. Consumers label copyright holders, large and small, with the "powerful media empire" image -- and steal copyrighted works in large quantities. That hurts the small author, and that's exactly the reaction that large licensing firms desire. We effectively have a two-tier copyright system: a few copyrights are held by large companies and defended over-zealously, hurting everyone's public image; and most copyrights aren't worth the cost of filing a free form, because of a lack of viable monitization channels. If Mickey Mouse is the only thing you're trying to protect with copyright law, it would be better to just repeal all the copyright laws and replace them with "Thou shallt not copy Mickey Mouse". If you're looking for a more balanced law, you should contemplate massive overhaul. How likely does that seem to you??

Posted by Randy Saunders on August 20, 2013 at 08:19 AM EDT #

I'd be more than willing to provide my input, including an actionable plan and reasonable neutrality. However, I feel this forum (comments on a webpage) is inadequate. If the USPTO would care to provide either a mailing address or an email address, I'd be happy to send a document. Please respond here and to the provided email address. Thanks,

Posted by Su on August 20, 2013 at 08:25 AM EDT #

Every single copyright extension since the original 14-28 year term has been retroactive: lobbyists are not much interested in extending copyright to encourage new works. But how does a retroactive extension meet the constitution's requirement "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts"? I would like to (1) have the 95-year copyright vastly reduced, (2) liability should be reduced in most cases, and (3) locating copyright holders can be difficult; if the markings on the work itself cannot locate the current copyright holder to ask permission to use (e.g. due to death of author), liability should be impossible until the copyright is registered with some central authority.

Posted by David Piepgrass on August 20, 2013 at 09:21 AM EDT #

I feel the duration of modern copyright does not meet the stated purpose: the advancement of useful knowledge and discoveries. It almost seems like the entire nature is for the creator's profit rather than the common good, which is the antithesis of its original purpose. Also, we need legislation to decide the issue of samples in music, as leaving it up the courts has left the issue too uncertain. It seems ridiculous that someone isn't permitted to use a processed 2 second sample of some music in entirely novel ways, but it also seems ridiculous to not pay the original artists for their samples in some music where they are essentially repeating a prior work with a new beat. The terms of engagement here need a clear definition. The current state of software copyright and patents involve people gaining long-term monopolies over creations that are obvious to anyone who is a developer. If the USPTO is not willing to hire software developers who can recognize this, I don't understand why ANY software patents are granted. As someone who has earned a living at different times from multiple industries that involve copyright (software and music composition) it would seem to be obvious that I should be in favor of strong copyrights, but as the system currently stands I'd be more in favor of tossing the whole thing out. Just my two cents.

Posted by Scott Mitting on August 20, 2013 at 09:40 AM EDT #

Reigning in the abusive use of DMCA takedown notices and removing penalties for circumventing digital locks are essential if we want to move forward with a progressive copyright system. No consequences for misusing takedown notices only sets up an easy, government supported censorship system. Legal penalties for altering or upgrading a device that I paid for is just indefensible. If it's not mine to open and tinker with, then it's not mine at all. What exactly am I paying for when I buy a device that I can't alter?

Posted by felixvulgaris on August 20, 2013 at 09:56 AM EDT #

I have a few comments regarding copyright and its abuse. First, why should we introduce artificial value for digital goods? The answer to that question will lead to a natural discussion of how much artificial value is appropriate. The current environment attempts to place entirely too much artificial value on digital goods and is the reason why this discussion is taking place. Second, sharing is not evil and should not be demonized or criminalized through legislation. Sharing is not synonymous with stealing and no amount of laws or propaganda will convince me otherwise. Content creators should stop focusing on what they cannot control (sharing of content between consumers) and start focusing on what they can control (live performances, tangible products tied to their content, etc). Last, let private industry (this includes content creation) succeed or fail on its own merits. Content creation is not a new industry but is notorious for abusing government power to ensure success. This should end.

Posted by Sam on August 20, 2013 at 09:57 AM EDT #

1. No software should be patentable. Nor computer hardware, as patents stifle innovation, and you're granting them on the most inane things. You're not capable of judging the worth of the patents, so trust people in the industry who tell you to just get rid of them. Innovation in computers is far too quick for patents, as something that's innovative one year is commonplace, or even outdated the next. What distinguishes companies is the level of their service. 2. Damages for individual infringement should be limited to double the cost of the infringement. Companies should be forced to show proof that the user themselves infringed, and an IP address is not sufficient. *Commercial* infringement (not "Large-scale infringement", but people who are selling others' copyrighted material) should have huge damages. The only difference in the level of damages should be if you're selling the product.

Posted by Matthew on August 20, 2013 at 09:58 AM EDT #

3. First sale doctrine will always be relevant. You cannot sell someone a license to use software or music and then place restrictions on what they do with it. The people who want this axed are people who want consumers to buy the same product multiple times on multiple services. 4. DMCA takedowns should either be removed completely, or companies should be punished with huge fines for invalid takedowns, because companies are issuing takedowns for content that isn't theirs to stifle competition and critique. Each false takedown should be at least a $100,000 fine, going directly into a fund for establishing national fiber. Thus, companies will be forced to improve their systems to not remove others' content. If companies have the legal obligation to police their own service, then companies have the legal obligation to not falsely claim infringement.

Posted by Matthew on August 20, 2013 at 10:04 AM EDT #

5. The new streaming legislation is a joke. There are so many ways it can be abused that the drafters should be deported. Stop letting uninformed people draft reactionary legislation. 6. DRM is a menace. Any company who creates products with it should be forced to send removal tools to all subscribers on dissolution. Walmart, Microsoft and others have axed DRM-encrusted services and subsequently closed them, robbing consumers. 7. A public license database could be created, but frankly, the government is far too incompetent to tackle this seriously. Given your track record in understanding, much less controlling, these issues, I'd rather you stay away from it. Quite likely, you'd just use it to start spying on computer users, so no company, much less user, is going to trust you.

Posted by Matthew on August 20, 2013 at 10:06 AM EDT #

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for LIMITED TIMES* to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries. -- 1787 (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8) * 14 years since the Statute of Anne, 1710.

Posted by Alex on August 20, 2013 at 10:23 AM EDT #

I hold three registered copyrights (one of which I just sent a week ago, same email as here), and would like to point out that art is like technology, in that everything new comes from the old, "if I see farther than others it's because I stand on the shoulders of giants." Imagine how technology would stagnate if patents lasted so long? That's how art is stagnating. Also, any noncommercial use should be legal. I, for one, want EVEYONE to read my new book whether or not they pay me. I don't pay to read a library book!

Posted by Steve McGrew on August 20, 2013 at 10:36 AM EDT #

My thought of an option that would make everyone mostly happy: Initial copyright term: 25 years Renewal: 75$, every 5 years Can renew indefinitely That way, orphan works move quickly to the public domain, but Disney can stop messing with copyright law. There would need to be an online registry of all books under copyright, which would need to be publicly accessible in order to find the copyright status of any work. The cost of renewal could be adjusted. Its main purpose is to create some tiny barrier to renewing forever, so that a work that is earning the copyright owner very little will not be worth renewing forever, but should be low enough that it isn't a problem for an owner who wants to keep their book for a longer time if they want to.

Posted by Erin M on August 20, 2013 at 10:36 AM EDT #

This sums up my views. Copyright is fine, but it should be limited in length. If it is not limited in length, then the fines for violations should be shortened in proportion. The following would, I believe, contribute value to the society at large as well as reasonable compensation for the artist, while encouraging creation of new works throughout the artist's lifetime: 1) Please reduce the absurd duration of copyright. We can argue about exactly how long, but anything above 30 years is definitely absurd. Also copyright would be better if anything above 20 years required a substantial payment. 2) Copyright should be non-transferable and belong to the artist producing the work. 3) Please ensure that all private copying from media to media for personal use only is regarded as Fair Use. 4) Commercial Piracy should attract large fines, however small personal acts of piracy should be penalized in the region of a few thousand dollars TOTAL, not several tens of thousands for each work. As an example, Jammie Thomas was definitely guilty, but a maximum fine of about $5,000 would be seen as far more reasonable especially as she made no significant financial gain from the act.

Posted by William B Miller on August 20, 2013 at 10:45 AM EDT #

When technological advancements are held hostage because of patents that are locked up and unused (much as the case of powder and liquid forms of 3D printing), there is a severe problem. When these concepts are so broad, no one else can develop new technologies based on them. Really, creating things based on layers of liquid has been around since mud huts. Allow people to control the processes, not the concepts. Reduce the breadth of patents and copyrights.

Posted by Greg Webster on August 20, 2013 at 12:24 PM EDT #

I agree entirely with an earlier comment that copyright should be limited to 25 years. Disney's Mickey Mouse copyright extensions are NOT in the public interest. They merely demonstrate the extent to which corporate cash has corrupted our democracy.

Posted by Dr. Robert Stephenson on August 20, 2013 at 12:49 PM EDT #

Patents & copyrights are broken in the US. The standard should be "give 100 industry people a task to accomplish what the patent does, and if 1 produces something similar to the patent then it is not patentable." Software patents should be 100% done away with. Math isn't patentable, and computer programs are equivalent to a form of math. Every software patent I have read has been obvious. Patents are death to all but the top software companies who have the money to buy the patents and work cross-licensing deals. As soon as you make money, a troll comes along, wanting your profits for 1+2=3. Copyrights should be for a reasonable term like 17 years, not extended for 50 years every 49 years just because someone in Washington gets paid under the table. The government must start abiding by it's own laws (not changing them because a copyright holder with big pockets comes to town wanting to protect his cash cow) and promptly prosecuting office holders who break them.

Posted by C G on August 20, 2013 at 12:49 PM EDT #

Very disappointing that reducing the term of copyright back to 25 years and restoring fair use are not on your list of green paper ideas. If you were actually interested in hearing from the American people and not your bought and paid for corporate bosses than you would be giving both of these ideas a serious review. Copyright was designed to promote cultural creation, now it is being used to maintain corporate rights on products whose creators are long dead.

Posted by james roe on August 20, 2013 at 12:51 PM EDT #

Copyright law as it stands today will not be possible to carry on into the next century, possibly even the next 20 years. The problem with copyright law is that the same idea can be independently generated, and that the growing population, and the growing percentage of the population that have more access to more information means that there is going to be an increase in simultaneous independent thought generation. Ideas should not be property, especially because of the nature of society and the importance of mimicry. Imagine if the wheel were patented. Now imagine all of the important inventions (laser sintering printers for example) that are going to be necessary for the advancement of the species in the near future. Eventually (and especially when 3d printing is more widespread) people will just start ignoring patent law altogether (as , in my opinion, it should be).

Posted by Jamie Fisk on August 20, 2013 at 04:05 PM EDT #

I appreciate that you are seeking some public input on copyright; however, I believe that copyright is so fundamentally broken, for instance in terms of duration and damages, that major problems, conflict, and injustices will continue to exist until those are fixed, and what you are discussing will almost certainly do nothing to fix this. I also believe that copyright as it currently exists is counter to the Constitution, because I believe it IMPEDES progress in the creative arts rather than fosters it, while substantially curtailing the rights of the People of the United States, whom it is supposed to benefit. To address a few of the specific points: "Improving the operation of the notice and takedown system for removing infringing content from the Internet under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)." - One key point that needs to be addressed is penalties for entities that ABUSE this system. The system is widely abused at present, leading to substantial harm to innocent parties, but there are no penalties for those who abuse it. "The appropriate calibration of statutory damages in the context of (1) individual file sharers and (2) secondary liability for large-scale infringement." - This is one area where clearly the penalties are on the order of 1000x higher than they ought to be. It isn't a matter of "calibration", it's a matter of them being completely absurd, and unjust. "Whether and how the government can facilitate the further development of a robust online licensing environment, including access to comprehensive public and private databases of rights information." - Such a task would be made considerably easier by limiting Copyright duration to a sensible term, such as 5-25 years from the creation date of the work. (I have some interesting ideas about this, and justification for them, but this is not the space for it.)

Posted by Matthew Vaughan on August 20, 2013 at 04:19 PM EDT #

First and foremost, patent trolls must be put out of business. Buying a patent solely to use it in lawsuits cannot be allowed, and should be punitively discouraged. Patent holders must demonstrate upon challenge, and certainly whenever they wish to sue for possible infringement, that they are moving forward to bring a product or service to market in order to retain their patent rights. To sue without producing stifles innovation. Second, (and somewhat related) Prior Art must be respected. This will require a decent database, yes, and people who are familiar with the field under discussion, but the news is filled with cases of people being granted patents for ideas that have been published, used, and marketed for years - considered so "common sense" that patenting it was ridiculous - and then suing the existing users for infringement. The very fact that someone was using what you "patented" before you got around to doing so should invalidate the patent. The Patent and copyright system should be a way to protect one's own investment in development, not a weapon to wage a war against people who are actually innovating, or a litigious shortcut to profits you have not done the work to earn.

Posted by Ken Walter on August 20, 2013 at 04:43 PM EDT #

From DMCA abuse[1] to causing the destruction of recording[2] and Documentaries, the current laws are destroying our cultural heritage.[3] Some changes that I'd like to see are: * Reform the DMCA to punish takedown abuse. $150,000 per false takedown? * If we're going to treat intellectual property like real property, it should be taxed like real property If you no longer make enough to pay for a copyright extensions, it should go into the PD * Someone who makes copies without permission should pay a fine, but it should be at the regular royalty rate for the item x copies made. So upload a song, its iTunes price x number of downloads, with perhaps a 20x penalty to discourage doing it, not the current draconian $150,000 per copy. [1] [2] [3]

Posted by Joey Reid on August 20, 2013 at 08:01 PM EDT #

Patents should severely be limited. Also software patents should be cancelled completely or at least limited to 5 years after invention. Also the patents should be reviewed by a professional and should require an implementation, so we get rid of all those "abstract" patents that only exist to cover future inventions as broadly as possible. A lot of startups are forced into a license of a patent they don't need just because a lot of abstract patents exist or patents on technology that was only new 20 years ago.

Posted by Philippe Symons on August 21, 2013 at 12:58 AM EDT #

I would like to thank you for addressing this issue, albeit 10 years too late, but cheers anyway right?

Posted by William Barnette on August 21, 2013 at 08:29 AM EDT #

The original intent of copyright was to motivate enrichment of the public domain by allowing for a period (14 years with a one-time extension to 28 years if requested, I believe) during which production costs could be recouped and maybe a reasonable profit achieved. The focus over time has shifted (some would say perverted) to the recouping of costs and the making/milking of profit rather than the enrichment of the public domain. In the digital age, especially with digital goods, reproduction costs are close to zero so the focus should probably be on recouping production costs. I think the public good is better served by an enriched public domain more than any individual or corporation maintaining control of so called intellectual assets, so would argue for a term a) sufficient to recoup 120% of production costs, or b) the original 14 or 28 years - whichever came first.

Posted by Stephen Garriga on August 21, 2013 at 08:41 AM EDT #

Two comments: 1) The roots of copyright law lie in a LIMITED time of protection for authors; the counterbalance is the public good and the free spread of ideas. We are currently in a grotesquely skewed state of affairs, where the original idea of the public good has been lost. Copyright law should be rebalanced with hefty protections that protect the public's rights to use and benefit from information and content. 2) First Sale - in a digital world where the move has been towards licensing content, rather than owning it, new policies have to be put in places to allow the unfettered use of such content within the context of libraries, research, and scholarship. These are activities which benefit society as a whole, and should be amply protected.

Posted by Nick Patterson on August 21, 2013 at 09:15 AM EDT #

Hi, Questions: 1. How and to where to I submit comments? 2. What is the deadline for comments? 3. What is the format and do you have specific questions you want answered? 4. How do I get on the list to receive information about the Green Paper, submissions and the results? Thanks, mary hodder

Posted by Mary Hodder on August 21, 2013 at 09:58 AM EDT #

The bigger picture is that the USA has been overwhelmed with too many laws that treat copyright material (programs for example) as patents. That said, there is a requirement to reduce the life of a copyright from infinity to some reasonable number of years, (Around the creative lifetime of an author), and to allow a length after his/her death for the spouses to benefit. As well, fair use needs to be vigorously defined, so as to prevent litigation. Perhaps the maximum penalty for violation say, for text, could be a penny a word, for a work of art, the value of the copy or a single lost sale.

Posted by Leslie Satenstein on August 21, 2013 at 01:18 PM EDT #

Is this the forum for comments? There may be a few people whose comments could require more than 1,000 characters. Perhaps you could provide a forum for that crowd, too.

Posted by Michael Sprague on August 21, 2013 at 08:11 PM EDT #

Copyrights are far too long now and are being used to destroy American culture by making it basically impossible to re-use old media without risking huge legal battles, massive fines, etc. 70 or 90 years beyond the death of the author is hardly "limited" when most people who see a piece of media will be dead by the time it (theoretically) becomes Public Domain.

Posted by Vanessa on August 22, 2013 at 02:22 PM EDT #

After years of managing copyright and related rights on behalf of content creators many of whose only point of distribution is internet based, any solution to the problems concerning copyright dispute management and resolution, in order to be effective must be technological, in the sense of online/ internet based, and personal in terms of recognizing and handling privacy and other conflicts of law which arise actual users are located worldwide in a simple and direct manner. There are many more people who eek out a living as independent contractors and creators in these industries who have a very difficult time effectively pursuing and enforcing their rights worldwide. Often to a cannibal type end, where before a creator can support a business their products are copied and the potential economic return pilfered by bots, cheats and other digital rights management scams. We need a system designed to address the concerns of all creators, including those of user generated content.

Posted by Tamiko Rochelle Franklin on August 23, 2013 at 01:30 AM EDT #

I’m pleased to see that our green paper on copyright policy has caught the attention of so many, and I’m glad people are choosing to share their thoughts in this blog. Also remember that, as I wrote in this post, we will soon be issuing formal requests for comments on a number of items in this report and convening various public events. We’ll be sure to get the word out when that happens. Until then I invite you to continue sharing thoughts on this blog. We do read them. – Shira Perlmutter, USPTO Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs.

Posted by Shira Perlmutter on August 23, 2013 at 07:31 AM EDT #

Please reduce the absurd duration of copyright. We can argue about exactly how long, but anything above 30 years is definitely absurd. Also copyright would be better if anything above 20 years required a substantial payment.

Posted by Bob Wentz on August 23, 2013 at 06:20 PM EDT #

Why is the USPTO, and not the Copyright Office, issuing a paper on copyright policy?

Posted by Rick Huard on August 28, 2013 at 08:30 AM EDT #

Copyright should be very simple ... if it ain't yours, and you didn't get permission to use it (purchased or free), then you stole it, and that is a crime. Fair use in the digital era has transformed into rampant legalized theft. What was intended to allow educational purposes without commercial gain/loss has transformed into license to avoid payment (read loss) to originators around the world. Additionally, using portions of copyrighted works as creative works is also tantamount to theft. Allowing others to strip portions of an original creation to make up some collage or other derivative is depriving the originator. At a minimum, any proceeds derived from the sale of derivative works shall require a prorated portion of the proceeds distributed between the original creator and the derivative creation. It is an absolute abomination for someone to profit from another work without compensating them for their contribution. Copyright rules have been far too lax, for far too long granting loopholes as license to legalized theft. It is time for that to come to a screeching hault. Expressing concerens about wanting to hear from uses of copyrighted material, sounds good, but the reality is that the users of copyrighted material want to pay as little (i.e. free) possible. Laws that foster legalized theft out of concern for the end user are abominant to those who are the creators and distributors. Allowing the legalized theft, in whole or in part. of copyrighted works is demeaning and devaluing to creators of copyrighted works and has a negative impact on the role of copyrighted works in our economic system by devaluing them. Copyright laws that promote legalized theft (i.e. no commerce) also have negative impact on the taxation that would accompany appropriate compensation for licensed purchase of copyrighted materials or works. Again, it might sound child-like, but if it ain't yours and you didn't get permission to have/use it ... you stole it. It doesn't need to be any more complicated than that.

Posted by Kent Southers on August 28, 2013 at 11:15 AM EDT #

Shira, this blog post attracted some attention from Slashdot. I strongly recommend having a look at one of the most popular comments posted on that site (link below). Here is the full text of the post: "1. Stop trying to control the non-commercial filesharing. The damages to creators are, at worst, about as big as trespassing on private property that isn't near a house or is actively exploited - like say, a forest. The positive effects, meanwhile, are huge and not to be neglected. Instead focus on the commercial filesharing efforts and the people making money on protected works without sharing those profits. 2. Lots of works can no longer be used because their right holders cannot be found (orphan works). In order to solve this problem, copyrighted works should be registered or face a very short copyright term on e.g. five years after publication. An extension of this idea is that economic copyright should only be allowed as long as the copyrighted works do have a substantial value, therefore we have a yearly fee of 2^x where x is the number of years a copyrighted work has been published. This ensures orphaned works become public domain, but it also ensures that copyrighted works that no longer have any commercial value also falls into public domain. 3. Copyright terms either need to be severely reduced, or there needs to be an exception clause for archivists, museums, libraries and the like to let them complete and create as complete collections of works as possible, lest our entire culture from the fifties and onward disappear. Just a couple of ideas to get started..." (Source:

Posted by Eric Newport on August 29, 2013 at 12:42 AM EDT #

Copyright in its current incarnation is depressing to me as a consumer. I can't go to any community website nowadays without a legal threat being plastered in front of me at almost every other website. I don't feel like I can express myself freely anymore without worrying that I'm going to be harassed and potentially threatened by some faceless rights-holding entity. Whatever is done, please draw a bright line between commercial and non-commercial infringement. The Internet is my escape. Don't take that away from me.

Posted by Gary Cohn on September 16, 2013 at 05:01 PM EDT #

I just hope that it should become clear that if a person posts a YouTube video where he or she sings someone else's song that should not be a crime, nor should it result in huge statutory damages. The penalties should be restricted to either collecting reasonable royalties or taking the video down.

Posted by Anne Barschall on September 25, 2013 at 10:19 AM EDT #

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