Written Testimony of Maria A. Pallante, US Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office

The House Judiciary Committee has released the 4/29/15 written testimony of Maria A. Pallante, United States Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office.

Here's an excerpt:

Related to the problem of orphan works, the Office is completing its analysis of copyright issues inherent to mass digitization projects. In our study, witnesses have described some of the difficulties presented by mass digitization projects under current copyright law, and proposed specific statutory solutions.

As hearing testimony indicated, the problem with respect to mass digitization is not so much a lack of information as a lack of efficiency in the licensing marketplace. For a digitization project involving hundreds, thousands, or millions of copyrighted works, the costs of securing ex ante permissions from every rightsholder individually often will exceed the value of the use to the user. Thus, even where a library or other repository agrees that a use requires permission and would be willing to pay for a license (e.g., to offer online access to a particular collection of copyrighted works), the burdens of rights clearance may effectively prevent it from doing so. To the extent that providing such access could serve valuable informational or educational purposes, this outcome is difficult to reconcile with the public interest.

While fair use may provide some support for limited mass digitization projects—up to a point—the complexity of the issue and the variety of factual circumstances that may arise compel a legislative solution. In the Office's view, the legitimate goals of mass digitization cannot be accomplished or reconciled under existing law other than in extremely narrow circumstances. For example, access to copyrighted works, something many view as a fundamental benefit of such projects, will likely be extremely circumscribed or wholly unavailable. For this reason, as part of its orphan works and mass digitization report, the Office will recommend a voluntary "pilot program" in the form of extended collective licensing ("ECL") that would enable full-text access to certain works for research and education purposes under a specific framework set forth by the Copyright Office, with further conditions to be developed through additional stakeholder dialogue and discussion. Such input is critical, we believe, because ECL is a market-based system intended to facilitate licensing negotiations between prospective users and collective management organizations representing copyright owners. Thus, the success of such a system depends on the voluntary participation of stakeholders.

Digital Scholarship | Digital Scholarship Sitemap

Author: Charles W. Bailey, Jr.

Charles W. Bailey, Jr.