08.02.10

Senate Passes Leahy-Sessions Bill To Clarify Copyright Laws

Senate Passes Leahy-Sessions Bill To Clarify Copyright Laws

WASHINGTON (Monday, August 2, 2010) – The Senate Monday night unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to make clarifications and technical fixes in the federal copyright laws.

The Copyright Cleanup, Clarification and Corrections Act was introduced Monday and promptly passed by the Senate.  The legislation will implement several recommendations by the Copyright Office to make the Office’s operations more efficient.  The bill also clarifies issues of copyright law that are either ambiguous or have been made unclear by recent court decisions.

“The Copyright Cleanup, Clarifications and Correction Act is another bipartisan effort to improve the copyright laws,” said Leahy.  “Similar to the Trademark Technical and Conforming Amendments Act enacted earlier this year, today’s legislation makes common sense improvements to the copyright system that will make it more efficient.  Congress should work in a bipartisan fashion to find inefficiencies and correct them.  We are doing that today.”

“I am pleased that the Senate has worked to expeditiously pass this legislation, which makes needed updates and technical corrections to our copyright laws,” said Sessions.  “Creators of intellectual work need assurances about their artistic rights, and it’s important that our laws take into account modern technology. Among other things, this bill will assist the U.S. Copyright Office’s transition to digital record-keeping. It also clarifies important principles of copyright ownership that have become clouded by recent court rulings and creates a clear mechanism for judicial review of rulemakings by Copyright Royalty Judges. It is my hope that the House of Representatives will pass this legislation quickly.”

Among other provisions, the bill will:

  • Make statutory changes to facilitate the Copyright Office’s transition to digital files and record keeping;
  • Clarify that the exclusive licensee of a copyrighted work may further license the work in the absence of an agreement to the contrary;
  • Clarify that dramatic and literary works, like musical works, were not “published” when included on an album, and the owner therefore retains his or her rights;
  • Clarify that regulations issued by the Copyright Royalty Judges are reviewable in court;
  • Make technical fixes including correcting alphabetizing within definitions and grammatical mistakes;
  • Delete of section 601 from title 17, which has not been in effect since 1986.

The legislation will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.  A PDF of the bill is available online.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.),

Chairman, Committee On The Judiciary,

On Introduction And Passage
Of  The Copyright Cleanup, Clarification, And Corrections Act Of 2010
August 2, 2010

 

Today, the Senate considers bipartisan legislation to make a number of improvements in the way the Copyright Office functions.  This bill will also clarify certain areas of copyright law to provide certainty, and make technical corrections to the code.  The Copyright Office has done a terrific job, as it always does, assisting Congress in finding inefficiencies in the law and recommending appropriate changes.  I appreciate the Senate acting swiftly to pass this bill. 

This bill is another bipartisan effort to improve the copyright laws.  Similar to the Trademark Technical and Conforming Amendments Act, today’s legislation makes common sense improvements to the copyright system that will make it more efficient.  Congress should work in a bipartisan fashion to find inefficiencies and correct them.  We are doing that today. 

The provisions of the bill fall into three categories: those designed to make the Office’s operations more efficient; those designed to clarify issues of copyright law made unclear either by recent court decisions or by ambiguities in the statute; and those that are technical.

In the first category, the Copyright Office has requested two statutory changes that will facilitate their transition to digital files and record keeping.   These changes will also make it easier for filers to submit documents electronically.

In the second category, the bill clarifies, for instance, that the exclusive licensee of a work may further license the work in the absence of an agreement to the contrary.  There are inefficiencies that arise from a lack of clarity in the statute, particularly as circuit splits arise.  The bill makes other clarifications, such as that the distribution of a phonorecord prior to 1978 shall not constitute a publication of a dramatic and literary work included in it.  Congress made this clarification with respect to musical works in 1997, and we do so with respect to other works today.

In the third category, the bill includes numerous technical corrections.  Finally, this legislation fulfills a commitment I made to the chairman and ranking member of the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary just before the House passed the Trademark Technical and Conforming Amendments Act.  The chairman and ranking member suggested that we strike the words “by corporations” from section 4 of that law.  I agreed, and offered to include such an amendment in subsequent legislation.  That change is included in this bill. 

I am pleased to be joined by the Judiciary Committee Ranking Member, Senator Sessions, in sponsoring this legislation.  This is a bipartisan effort.  Just as we acted quickly to pass the Trademark Technical and Confirming Amendments Act earlier this year, I hope Congress will come together to promptly send this legislation to the President to be signed into law.

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