Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Copyright Modernization Act of 2006

Yesterday, the "Copyright Modernization Act of 2006" was introduced in the House. Here is a link I created to this 100 page bill.

The bill has three titles: title I (taking up 85 and a half pages of the bill) is a revised version of the "SIRA" bill (H.R. 5553) and adds a new Section 115(e) covering digital music licensing. Title II is a revised Orphan Works section. Title III is a provision called "Copyright Protection Resources."

Title III has three substantive components: Section 302 (of the bill, not title 17) is, I believe, something the record companies previously sought to beat back fraud on the Copyright Office challenges to certificates of registration. It would require the certificate to be regarded as valid unless the applicant knew that inaccurate information had been provided and the Register of Copyrights would have rejected the application had she known of the inaccuracy. Where an allegation of inaccuracy is alleged, the court is required to request the Register to advise it whether it would have rejected the application. Courts routinely uphold registrations unless the inaccuracy would have caused rejection, so I don't see the need for the provision, which will, in any event, only delay litigation and add to the Copyright Office's workload. Moreover, since the applicant is in the best position to know the accuracy of the information it provides, there is no reason for applicants not to provide that information to the court anyway.

Section 303 of title III is also I believe a record industry initiative, designed to increase its statutory damage awards by permitting separate awards for individual sound recording tracks appearing on a CD. The new language would permit separate awards when the court "in its discretion" determines that individual components of a collective work "are distinct works having independent economic value." The independent economic value test is already used by some courts albeit importantly for different types of works. One would have thought that the staggering amounts already received by the labels were more than sufficient.

Section 304 increases the FBI's crime-busting piracy role.

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