Statement Of Senator Leahy, Hearing On: Oversight Of The U.S. Copyright Office

Billions of people around the world are inspired daily by art—music, film, photography, theater, books, and more.  Art can make us laugh and cry, entertain us, and reflect the human condition.  Art can rouse us to take action against injustice and cause us to acknowledge our shared humanity.  It can be powerful, beautiful, and enlightening.

From the very beginning of the Republic, our Founders anticipated the importance of rewarding artists for their hard work.  The Constitution, our foundational document, includes an intellectual property clause to make certain that artists and creators can reap the benefits of their creations and make a living from their work.  Without their work, life would be barren and dry.  We need art.  Throughout my 48 years in the Senate, I have kept a steadfast focus on copyright law for just this reason.  

Those 48 years have been exciting and fulfilling.  Working together—Congress, the Copyright Office, creators, and the public—we have found incredible success.  We set the fundamental copyright rules of the road for the internet in the late 1990’s with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  A decade later, we created the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator to empower an expert to address copyright theft and have support from within the White House.  And in the years since, we have worked closely with the Copyright Office to address copyright issues large and small.

The rise of the internet in the last few decades has led to unprecedented opportunities for creators to achieve recognition; some of their art may have never been discovered but for the internet. And the internet has allowed consumers to consume art that they want—not what is filtered or curated for them by middlemen who may not share their preferences. In that sense, the internet has deeply enriched our country and our artistic world.  Unfortunately, the internet has also brought fundamental new challenges for creators.  Copyright theft and even large-scale piracy online is quick, easy, and rampant.  This theft threatens an untold number of artists and serves as a deterrent to those who want to share their art with the world. That means we are not achieving our artistic potential as a nation.

Register Perlmutter, thank you for coming today, and congratulations on your appointment to lead the Copyright Office and your work so far.  I look forward to this hearing, the first oversight hearing of the Copyright Office since 2019.  I have enjoyed working with you and look forward to continuing our work to protect American creators.  This Congress, Ranking Member Tillis and I have kept a sharp eye on online copyright theft and on ways to address it. 

This Congress, we have overseen the implementation of the CASE Act, a bill I cosponsored in 2020 that allows creators to inexpensively file and resolve small copyright infringement claims in front of the experts at the Copyright Claims Board.  Now that the Copyright Claims Board is open for business, I am excited to help the process reach its full potential in protecting American creators.

We have also worked with your office to update the Digital Millennium Copyright Act so we can address online copyright theft.  We want platforms that allow users to share copyrighted material to take basic steps, ensuring that creators are getting paid when their material is distributed.  That means implementing technical measures like fingerprinting to flag copyrighted material.  I very much appreciate your work with the copyright community to find ways to make sure platforms are adopting reasonable technical solutions, and I want your office to have the appropriate resources, including a Chief Technology Officer, to research and understand the technological complexity involved.  I am excited to work with your office and the public to ensure that these solutions get adopted.

Beyond these important efforts, there is more work to be done.  Ranking Member Tillis and I continue to work with the public to figure out solutions to online piracy problems.  I want to especially thank Ranking Member Tillis and his staff for their tireless work on the issue.  I also want to pass our PEACE Through Music Diplomacy Act, which formalizes a program to support music-related exchange programs.  Diplomacy through music is yet another way that artists support the rest of us, and we should support them.  And we continue to work with your office and the public to make sure royalties set by the Copyright Royalty Board are fair to everyone involved.  I have always supported fair royalties for musicians and artists whose works are played publicly, and that important work continues.

As I reflect upon my tenure in the Senate, one of the most important causes I have taken up is protecting the rights of artists who make our world a richer, more humane place. Collaboration between Congress, the Copyright Office, creators, and the rest of the public is essential to making sure the copyright system works for both creators and consumers.  I hope that collaboration continues long beyond my time here in the Senate.  

Thank you for your collaboration over the last few years, Register Perlmutter.  I look forward to working with you today and the rest of this year, and I eagerly anticipate seeing you carry this important work forward in the coming years.  I look forward to your testimony.

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