Sandra Aistars, executive director of the Copyright Alliance, yesterday stressed that any new federal copyright legislation must protect artists’ rights.
Writing in The Hill”s “Congress Blog,” Aistars noted that the director of the United States Copyright Office “has suggested that it may be time to start considering ‘the next great Copyright Act.’ ” She added that “when that call comes from the Register of Copyrights, it makes revision seem less a proposal and more a reality.”
Any Congressional deliberations on a new copyright law “must be based in reality rather than rhetoric,” Aistars emphasized, adding that it should make a top priority of protecting creative artists:
Chief among these principles is that protecting authors is in the public interest. Ensuring that all creators retain the freedom of choice in determining how their creative work is used, disseminated and monetized is vital to protecting freedom of expression. Consent is at the heart of freedom, thus we must judge any proposed update by whether it prioritizes artists’ rights to have meaningful control over their creative work and livelihood.
Copyright is vital to protecting individual creators’ choice in how they express themselves to the general public. Whether authors take a DIY route or partner with a company, whether they sell their works or give them away, their choices must be respected.
Aistars also pointed out that copyright law is important to the economy, and warned, “Those skeptical of copyright protection have expended a lot of energy to redefine its language and revise its history.”
She noted early in her column that rhetoric about copyright revision has weaved through Congress recently due to the “incredible technological advances and an ever-shrinking world.”
In American colonial times, we had an agrarian economy, so British copyright law-the Statute of Anne-had no substantive effect here. But the Founding Fathers, realizing copyright’s value, submitted proposals to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Both James Madison and Charles C. Pinckney called for giving Congress power to grant limited-time copyright.
Primarily because of Madison and Pinckney, The US Constitution grants Congress the power to enact copyright laws in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 (the Copyright Clause). It states that Congress shall have 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.
Currenly, US Copyright law is governed by the federal Copyright Act of 1976. The law grants authors and artists the exclusive right to make and sell copies of their works, the right to create derivative works, and to perform or display their works publicly. These exclusive rights generally expire 70 years after the author’s death.
Aistars’ column points out that the 1976 law took over 20 years to revise and approve.
According to Aistar’s organization’s website, the Copyright Alliance “is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest and educational organization representing artists, creators, and innovators across the spectrum of copyright disciplines, including membership organizations, associations, unions, companies and guilds, representing artists, creators and innovators, and thousands of individuals.”