Consumer Messaging in Connection with Online Transactions Involving Copyrighted Works

On April 18, 2017, the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force hosted a public meeting on Consumer Messaging in Connection with Online Transactions Involving Copyrighted Works at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. The meeting was webcast, and members of the public were given opportunities to participate.

In its January 2016 White Paper on Remix, First Sale, and Statutory Damages, the Task Force concluded that when consumers download copies of works (such as eBooks, music, and motion pictures), they do not appear to have a clear understanding of what they can legally do with those copies.  It also determined that consumers may benefit from having more information about the nature of their transactions related to copyrighted works delivered online—including whether they are paying for access to content or for ownership of a copy—to instill greater confidence and enhance participation in the online marketplace.  The Task Force therefore convened this meeting to facilitate a dialogue about ways to improve consumers’ understanding of license terms and restrictions in connection with online transactions involving copyrighted works.

The meeting focused on identifying what copyright-related terms and conditions are important to communicate to consumers in the online environment.  Some examples of possible terms include: ownership (i.e., whether ownership is transferred); use restrictions (e.g., restrictions on copying, limits to a certain number of viewings); and/or transfer conditions (e.g., restrictions on resale).  Moreover, the meeting addressed alternatives to the “buy” button for transactions that are not sales, as well as possible best practices to inform consumers about the relevant terms relating to intellectual property rights.  The goal of the meeting was to explore issues and facilitate a discussion, and to determine in what ways government can be of assistance.

Federal Register Notice:
Additional details about the meeting are in a Federal Register Notice, which was published on March 21, 2017.

A final agenda is available here.

Speaker biographies:
Speaker biographies are available here.

A transcript of the meeting is available here.

Additional information:
For non-press inquiries, please contact Linda Quigley, Attorney-Adviser, Office of Policy and International Affairs (Copyright), USPTO.