AG president Roxana Robinson, past-president Scott Turow, and ED Mary Rasenberger headed down to D.C. last week for a panel with the Congressional Creative Rights Caucus and meetings with a number of lawmakers, where we discussed much-needed copyright law reforms, as well as combatting Amazon’s anticompetitive conduct and book distribution dominance. We’re already seeing some progress.
After meeting with the offices of four Senators to push for antitrust action against Amazon and requesting that the Senate join the House Judiciary to take up Copyright Office Modernization and certain copyright law reforms, we sat down with several Congressmen to discuss issues on the House’s current copyright law agenda. High on our legislative priorities list is the establishment of a copyright small claims court: a venue where copyright disputes can be resolved fairly, efficiently, and most importantly cheaply, without the hassle and expense of filing a lawsuit. The typical copyright infringement lawsuit costs minimally $150,000, making it impossible for most authors and other creators to enforce the rights they have—rendering their rights more or less meaningless. We learned this week that one of the Congressmen is now looking to introduce a small copyright claims bill in approximately one month.
In other legislative developments, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, released a statement on Tuesday (World IP Day) underscoring his commitment to copyright reform and to proposing legislation in areas where consensus is likely. One of those areas, we hear, is Copyright Office modernization—to provide the office with the funding and technology it needs to effectively and efficiently serve authors and other creators in the digital age—legislation we have been actively lobbying for in recent months. And two weeks ago, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) introduced the “Artist-Museum Partnership Act,” a bill that would allow tax deductions for charitable contributions of “tangible literary and scholarly compositions” (i.e. manuscripts), among other things.
On the Amazon front, a group of Senators has agreed to look into the issues and may be sending a letter out in the near future. Also, we received a positive sign from the White House earlier this month, when President Obama issued an Executive Order designed to increase competition in all areas of the economy. The order directs every executive-branch department and agency to seek out anticompetitive behavior and exclusionary conduct within its ambit, identify actions it can take to increase competition, and report back with specific recommendations for action within 60 days. Naturally, we’re hopeful the order will turn a few searchlights on Amazon’s anticompetitive conduct in the publishing industry.
We’ll keep you posted with any developments.