Virtually everyone in the music community has bee screaming for copyright reform, but there has been mostly talk but little movement until now. Copyright Bill H.R. 1695, “The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act” passed the House of Representatives by 378-48 last week, which many hope is the beginning of larger reforms in the future.
H.R. 1695 is actually pretty modest in terms of copyright reform. The bill calls for removing copyright oversight from the Library of Congress and giving it instead to an independent agency run by a presidential appointee with a 10-year term limit and confirmed by the Senate. This is what currently happens with patents and trademarks with the Patent and Trademark Office. The idea is that with an independent voice vested only in copyright, the subject will get much more specific attention now than it does now from the Library of Congress.
The Bill is expected to pass the Senate with no significant opposition before going to the President’s desk. It should be noted that of the 48 House members who opposed the Bill, 46 were Democrats and most were from districts with hi-tech industries, like San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Obviously, big tech likes things just the way they are today.
Even though many musicians tend to lean Democrat, that still doesn’t mean they like the status quo. Ever since music has moved online, copyright has required a major re-think. The current laws were never meant to apply to the digital world, and for that reason, a major overhaul is necessary regardless of your political leanings.
There have been a lot of very smart people working behind the scenes on this for quite a while, but it doesn’t mean that the major re-do will happen overnight. It will still be a long process, but at least the first baby step with this copyright bill has finally been taken.