United States Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante spoke before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet last week, urging lawmakers to undertake the arduous task of promoting comprehensive reforms for the nation's copyright statutes. The process should be framed in years, not months, according to Pallante, and everything from fair use and copyright length to piracy prevention and performance royalty management should be up for discussion.
"My message is simple. The law is showing the strain of its age and requires your attention," Pallante told legislators. "This subcommittee in particular has an opportunity to do what it has done in the past, not merely to update particular provisions of copyright law, but to put a forward thinking framework for the benefit of both culture and commerce alike."
At the heart of the matter is Congress' most recent attempt at high-level reform: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) passed in 1998. According to Wired, many of the technological innovations the legislation now covers, including search engines, ecommerce sites and social networking platforms, were either in their embryonic stages or not yet conceived as the law was being written. However, legislative progress could come slowly as scores of massive multinational media companies will likely look to guard their interests and assert their influence.
Finally, Pallante's initiative will also be going up against an increasingly aware, and at times agitated, general public. According to The Verge, the backlash associated with Stop Online Piracy Act provisions being floated over the past 18 months reflects a passionate interest in the way digital media consumption is regulated. Nevertheless, Pallante is hoping to move forward with productive discussions knowing that the talks that ultimately spawned the Copyright Act of 1976 carried on for more than two decades.