Obama administration talks copyright reform, slams piracy

Gary Locke, the current United States Commerce Secretary, met with artists and representatives from the music industry in Nashville, TN this week to address issues the country’s “Music City” has experienced as a result of declining recoded music sales, and touched on some of the government’s current plans for copyright law reform.

Obama administration talks copyright reform, slams piracy

In case anyone in the audience was confused over the administration’s views on piracy, Locke used the words of Vice President Joe Biden in describing the act as, “Flat, unadulterated theft.”  He went on to state that, “This isn’t just an issue of right and wrong.  This is a fundamental issue of America’s economic competitiveness.”

Locke also referred to the internet as, “a double-edged sword for the music industry,” pointing out the challenges associated with P2P file sharing and streaming content, but contrasting the issues with a potential for opportunity and growth in digital music sales.

So what is the Obama administration planning on doing about the issues plaguing the music industry today?

There is currently a Performance Rights Act pending before Congress which would do the following:

  • grant performers of sound recordings equal rights to compensation from terrestrial broadcasters
  • establish a flat annual fee in lieu of payment of royalties for individual terrestrial broadcast stations with gross revenues of less than $1.25 million and for non-commercial, public broadcast stations
  • grant an exemption from royalty payments for broadcasts of religious services and for incidental uses of musical sound recordings
  • grant terrestrial broadcast stations that make limited feature uses of sound recordings a per program license option

Additionally, the Department of Commerce will soon issue a Notice of Inquiry in order to gather ideas from the public regarding the challenges of rewriting copyright laws in a world that has been drastically changed by the internet. The administration plans on using this public input to compile a report which is supposed to help form future policies on copyright protection.

Locke wrapped up his speech by reiterating the administration’s desire to ensure that performers receive fair compensation, and stated that, “the Department of Commerce is continually looking for new ways to ensure that the creativity that is the lifeblood of the U.S. and Nashville’s economy is protected.”

All-in-all, it looks to me like the US government is quick to denounce the act of piracy, but remains perplexed as to how to deal with it. While it is certainly a complex issue, it strikes me as odd that there will actually be a public forum to gather ideas on the topic.

Will you participate in the Department of Commerce’s Notice of Inquiry to gather input on these issues? What would you tell them?