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Chairman Nadler Statement for Hearing on “Oversight of the U.S. Copyright Office”

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks during a hearing on “Oversight of the U.S. Copyright Office:”

“Copyrights have played an integral part in driving this country’s standing as a leader in creativity and innovation.  The idea that creators should reap the rewards of their hard work dates to the country’s founding when, in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, the Founders granted Congress the authority 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.’

“While copyright law has evolved over the years, our goal is to remain true to the underlying aim of promoting and incentivizing creators’ hard work by protecting their intellectual property.

“This has largely been a success.  Today, core copyright industries account for millions of jobs and have contributed more than one trillion dollars to the U.S. economy.

“The U.S. Copyright Office—the focus of our hearing today—plays a vital role in upholding this copyright system.  I would like to extend a warm welcome to the Register of Copyrights, Shira Perlmutter, who is at the helm of this important institution.  Register Perlmutter is six months into her tenure as Register, and we look forward to hearing from her today and to working with her on the many issues before the Office and in the copyright space.

“This past year, as the nation adjusted under the coronavirus pandemic, the Copyright Office likewise had to adapt.  In March 2020, the Office transitioned most of its staff to remote work and offered electronic options for services that were previously paper-based.

“The Office also used its authority under the CARES Act to extend the deadlines for certain actions.  I commend the Office for its work in transitioning smoothly.

“This past year also has highlighted the importance of an effective and robust copyright system.  Just as the Copyright Office had to close its physical doors, music concerts vanished, theaters shuttered, and movie sets were inactive.  This has had a devastating impact on creative industries and has made it even more evident how critical it is that we maintain a strong copyright system to bolster the creative community as it seeks to recover in the wake of the pandemic.

“This Committee held its last Copyright Office oversight hearing in 2019, and there have been some notable changes since then.  In December, for example, Congress passed the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act, or CASE Act, led by our colleague Representative Jeffries and our former colleague, Representative Doug Collins.

“The CASE Act addressed the prohibitive costs of pursuing a copyright infringement suit in federal court by establishing a small-claims tribunal in the Copyright Office, called the Copyright Claims Board.  The Board is expected to be operational by the end of the year, and we look forward to hearing about the Office’s progress in implementing the CASE Act and standing up the Board.

“The Copyright Office has also been integral in the implementation of the blanket license for digital music providers established under Title I of the Music Modernization Act.   The blanket license became available this January, and the Mechanical Licensing Collective has already distributed its initial round of royalty payments.  We look forward to hearing more about how the first few months of the blanket license have unfolded so far.

“Turning to what may lie ahead, this is the Committee’s first opportunity to hear from the Office about the report on section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that it published last year.   The Office reviewed whether, in today’s environment, section 512’s notice-and-takedown regime properly balanced the growth of the internet against the protection of intellectual property rights.  The Office concluded that this balance was tilted ‘askew.’  The Office put in a tremendous amount of work over the course of its multi-year study, and we look forward to discussing the Office’s conclusions and recommendations.

“I am also interested to hear Ms. Perlmutter’s views on the ART Act, legislation I introduced responding to the Office’s recommendation, in a 2013 report, that Congress consider creating a resale royalty right for visual artists that would give artists a percentage of the sales when their work is resold under certain conditions.

“This addresses the disparity that arises in the field of visual arts because such artists do not benefit from the copyright system in the same way as other creators since they generally do not sell many copies of their works.  This legislation ensures that, if their works become more valuable over time, they are able to share in that increase in value.

“Accordingly, I believe this legislation is a matter of basic fairness and would put us in the company of more than seventy other countries around the world.  It would also ensure that Americans receive royalties when their works are sold abroad in those other countries, which will not happen until we offer them such a right ourselves.

“Moving away from the law, the Committee is also following the Copyright Office’s efforts to modernize its IT systems and business processes.  The Office made a number of updates last year, including launching an electronic recordation pilot and releasing a new public records interface.

“The Library of Congress is also convening a Copyright Public Modernization Committee, to be led by the Library of Congress’s Office of the Chief Information Officer.

“The Committee looks forward to hearing about these and other developments at the Office and in the copyright system.  I thank Register Perlmutter for her appearance today and again I congratulate her on her appointment.”

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