Legislative Background

Copyright Legislative Background

Digital Millennium Copyright Act

On October 12, 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The law became effective in October 2000 and it has been incorporated into the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the U. S. Code). This landmark legislation updated U.S. copyright law to meet the demands of the Digital Age and to conform U.S. law to the requirements of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and treaties that the U.S. signed in 1996.

Orphan Works

Orphan works are works whose copyright holders cannot be identified or found – and are not made publicly available by libraries for fear that rights holders will come forward, initiate legal action, and demand statutory damages of up to $150,000 a work.

114th Congress

Information to come.

113th Congress

  • H.R. 1123 Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act (introduced 3/13/2013)
  • H.R. 1892 Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 introduced 5/08/2013)Activity during the 112th Congress

January 18, 2012

Rep. Darrell Issa (D-CA) along with 25 co-sponsors introduced H.R. 3782, the “Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act” or OPEN Act – the U.S. House version of Senate bill S. 2029.

December 17, 2011

Sen. Wyden (D-OR), along with Senators Moran (R-KS) and Cantwell (D-WA), introduced S. 2029, the “Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act” or OPEN Act.  Introduced as a more palatable alternative to PIPA S. 968 and SOPA H.R. 3261, the OPEN Act focuses solely on cutting off websites’ payment processing and ad networks. In contrast, PIPA and SOPA go further in that they also cut off access to the allegedly infringing websites themselves.

December 13, 2011

Markup of and a potential vote on H.R. 3261, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA has been scheduled for Thursday, December 15 by the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.  A call to action was sent to ALA members encouraging them contact their representative before the markup and ask them to vote “NO” on SOPA.  (A direct link to instructions on how to identify and contact a member of Congress, along with specific talking points, is available here.)

December 12, 2011

A Manager’s Amendment to bill H.R. 3261 (pdf) was submitted by Rep. Smith.  The revised language addresses only some of the many significant concerns raised by opponents to the bill. The ALA, as member of the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), sent a letter (pdf) on November 8 to the U.S. House Judiciary leadership raising specific copyright-related concerns on behalf of libraries. Unfortunately, the Manager’s Amendment does not appear to address the concerns raised specifically by the library associations.

December 8, 2011

U.S. House of Representatives Issa (R-CA) and Wyden (D-or) introduced draft bill language for the “Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act” or OPEN. In n the spirit of openness and transparency, a website was created – www.keepthewebopen.org – allowing the public to review the draft text and comment.  The bill language is an alternative to H.R. 3261, “Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA.

November 16, 2011

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on November 16, 2011 on H.R. 3261 SOPA/E-PARASITE bill. The ALA joined several other public interest groups and sent a letter(pdf) to House Judiciary Committee leadership expressing “deep concern” with the bill.

October 26, 2011

Rep. Smith (R-VA) introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives H.R. 3261, “The Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA, also known as the “Enforcing and Protecting American Rights Against Sites Intent on Theft and Exploitation” or E-PARASITE bill. The bill serves as the house companion to the Senate version (S. 968). However, it is more far reaching.  A myriad of concerns have been raised about how the bill would threaten privacy, intellectual freedom and cyber security, among others.The ALA, as part of the Library Copyright Alliance or LCA (which includes ACRL and ARL) sent a letter (pdf) to the House leadership raising specific copyright-related concerns on behalf of libraries.  In the letter the LCA raised two key concerns:

  1. The bill would change the scope of “willful infringement” with the potential to capture what the courts would have previously determined as innocent infringement– raising the stakes of statutory damages sought up to $150,000 per work.
  2. In addition, the bill would impose criminal sanctions for public performances including streaming.  Public performances would include digital works transmitted to classrooms, including those at a distance, and even those of a non-commercial nature.

Ultimately, this bill brings into the realm of possibility the criminal prosecution of a library for streaming or public performances for educational purposes.

May 12, 2011

U.S. Senator Leahy (D-VT), along with several co-sponsors, introduced S. 968, “The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011” or PROTECT IP Act of 2011 or PIPA. The bill was intending to crack down on rogue websites dedicated to the sale of infringing counterfeit goods. In reaction to the bill, the ALA joined other organizations and sent a letter (pdf) to Senate leadership stating, as currently drafted “…S. 968 makes nearly every actor on the Internet potentially subject to enforcement orders under the bill, raising new policy questions regarding government interference with online activity and speech.“