I’ve written before about the barriers to copyright enforcement for most creators, and how efforts to legislate a small claims procedure have been stumbling along since 2006. The Copyright Office last year called for comments from the public, and the comments were posted in January. Despite many thoughtful efforts, there’s no silver bullet in the lot.
So a new call has gone out and you have three weeks from today to respond. Between good analysis inside the Copyright Office and in the January comments, the new request reflects a long list of multiple choice questions which break down every step in possible new procedures. They are begging for answers. Instructions and the questions at http://www.copyright.gov/fedreg/2012/77fr51068.pdf.
But the questions are good only for people who know copyright law, copyright infringement litigation, small claims court procedures, arbitration, and mediation. If you’re like most people who write music or books and need an affordable way to protect your work, not so much. Please keep reading anyway.
If you can’t afford to enforce your copyrights today, tell the Copyright Office what you need. If you don’t know exactly how to describe what you need, tell them what you want. Don’t worry about having an opinion on the dozens of good law and policy questions in the notice. All you need to know is what you would like to be able to protect your work, and how you would like to be able to do it.
It is inevitable that the copyright professionals and large rights owners will have great influence on proposed legislation or convincing the Copyright Office that there is no good solution. Few of them need help like a single artist with a website and a merch table at the farmer’s market. If the people who really need the help are not heard from, that isn’t good for the whole process.
If the enforcement of copyrights is out of reach for most, it harms the ability of the larger players to enforce their rights too. Why? The longer we get used to the idea that any creative work we see or hear can be copied or used any way we please, the nearer the day when the best lawyer in America can’t convince a jury to protect her client’s copyrights.
Consider submitting a comment that describes what you do and says “I need to be able to protect my copyrights by….” Do you just want to get infringers to stop using your stuff, collect some money, get credit for what you did? Would you be satisfied with a procedure like a takedown notice to YouTube? Do you want a day in court to tell your story? Let them know. It’s free and pretty easy to do.
The Constitution gives Congress the power to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Article 1, Sec. 8. You can help Congress do that. Submit a comment.