United States embarks on copyright law reform

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United States embarks on copyright law reform
Bob Goodlatte.

DMCA review included.

America's House of Representatives judicial committee is to undertake a comprehensive review of United States copyright law.

Republican politician Bob Goodlatte, one of the authors and sponsors of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA, chairs the powerful committee, and has taken a great deal of interest in technology issues in the past, such as opposing online gambling.

Goodlatte said the committee would hold a "timely" series of hearings on US copyright law in the months ahead.

"The goal of these hearings will be to determine whether the laws are still working in the digital age." 

Pointing to the rapid technological advance brought on by the internet since the early 1990s, the US congressman said there was a need to better understand how such changes impact on laws.

In announcing the "sweeping reforms", Goodlatte did not indicate in which direction they would go, whether the new law would relax or tighten up existing copyright enforcement provisions.

However, civil rights lobby groups such as Public Knowledge welcomed Goodlatte's annoucement. Spokesperson Sherwin Siy of Public Knowledge said his organisation hoped for a a new law that balanced the interests of artists with those of their audiences and the public in general.

The current Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante, is also in favour of law reform. She says that while the past and current copyright laws have served the United States very well, they are not perfect.

Commenting on earlier law, Pallante said that "the 1976 Act, which was a fair and remarkable achievement by many accounts, did not come close to the bleeding edge of technology."

"I would like to encourage [the US] Congress not only to think about copyright law, but to think big," Pallante says.

Pallante indicated that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA also needed updating.

"A general review of copyright issues in the 21st century would be incomplete without a review of the DMCA. On the one hand, it is our best model of future-leaning legislation. On the other hand, fifteen years have passed and the world – including most notably the Internet – has evolved.

Thus, if only for the exercise of establishing how the DMCA is working, including how affected parties have implemented its provisions and courts across the country have applied it, Congress should take stock of the last decade and a half," Pallante said.

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