Copyright Alliance Announces Its Formation

May 17, 2007. The Copyright Alliance held an event on Capitol Hill to announce its formation, and advocate its principles. It states that it is "a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization dedicated to promoting the value of copyright as an agent for creativity, jobs and growth".

Its founder and Executive Director is Patrick Ross. He was previously a Senior Fellow at the Progress & Freedom Foundation (PFF), where he focused on copyright issues, and especially the rights and interests of creators and artists. Before that he was a journalist, writing for Warren News' Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily, and briefly for CNET. And before that, he worked for Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). He is also a former musician, and the son of a novelist.

Ross stated that the group would be involved in education, providing witnesses, publishing information, and maintaining a web site. He also stated that the Copyright Alliance would not litigate, or enforce copyrights.

Eight persons spoke at the event, in addition to Ross -- four singers and songwriters, one photographer, one economist, and one of the academic advisor to the Copyright Alliance. Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's (HJC) Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property also spoke. He praised the new group for "broadening the coalition" for protection of the works of creators.

Many companies and groups are involved in a wide range of current debates over copyright law. Many of these assert that they also represent the interests of creators and artists. Perhaps what is new about the Copyright Alliance is that it may actually represent a broad array of creators and artists.

The members of the Copyright Alliance include artists' groups, such as the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (AFTRA), American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Professional Photographers of America (PPA), and the Recording Artists' Coalition (RAC).

However, the members of the Copyright Alliance also include numerous aggregators and distributors of copyrighted works.

The members include movie, record and TV companies and groups, including the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA), CBS Corporation, NBC Universal, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), Sony Pictures Entertainment, Time Warner, Viacom, Vin Di Bona Productions, and The Walt Disney Company.

The members also include news, book and other text publishers, including the Association of American Publishers (AAP), Newspaper Association of America (NAA), and Magazine Publishers of America (MPA)

The members also include software companies and groups, including Microsoft, the Business Software Alliance (BSA), and Entertainment Software Association (ESA).

The members also include sports leagues, including Major League Baseball (MLB), NBA Properties, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The members also include News Corporation, Directors Guild of America (DGA), National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA).

In contrast, others groups that are active in debates over copyright law, and that often advocate limiting the scope of copyright, and the rights and remedies of copyright holders, are not a part of this new group.

For example, the Copyright Alliance does not include library groups, museums, or universities.

Nor does the Copyright Alliance include the makers of equipment, software and services that are used by consumers in connection with their infringement of copyrighted works, including computer electronics makers, computer makers, telecommunications carriers, internet service providers, and certain interactive computer services.

Nor does the new group include satellite radio companies, cable companies, or internet radio companies.

Nor does the new group include Google as a member. Members of the Copyright Alliance have sued Google and YouTube (which is now owned by Google). See for example, March 12, 2007, complaint [PDF] filed by Viacom and others in the U.S. District Court (SDNY), and story titled "Viacom Files Complaint Against Google and YouTube Alleging Violation of Copyright Law" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,551, March 13, 2007.

Also, members of the AAP, which is a member of the Copyright Alliance, have sued Google in connection with its books program which involves digitizing of books under copyright without authorization. Former Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-CO), who is now the head of the AAP, attended the May 17 event, but did not speak.

See, story titled "Major Book Publishers Sue Google for Digitizing Copyrighted Books" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,237, October 20, 2005. See also, story titled "Google, Publishers and Authors Debate Google's Print for Libraries Program" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,239, October 25, 2005; story titled "Author's Guild Sues Google for Copyright Infringement" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,218, September 21, 2005; and story titled "University Publishers Accuse Google of Systematic Infringement of Copyright on a Massive Scale" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,142, May 25, 2005;

In contrast, Microsoft, which is also a member of the Copyright Alliance, has its own book program which involves obtaining permissions. See also, story titled "Microsoft Counsel Says Google Systematically Violates Copyright" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,547, March 6, 2007.

The Copyright Alliance's membership is broad. Hence, Ross conceded that there will be issues on which some members disagree. Although, he did not identify any.

One such issue will be orphan works. Many of the content industry groups advocate an orphan works bill, while artists, and especially photographers, vehemently oppose the proposal.

Another area of disagreement is the proposed World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) broadcast treaty. The NAB, which is a member of the Copyright Alliance, advocates creating a proprietary right, akin to copyright, in broadcast signals, but without exceptions such as fair use. The sports leagues, which are also members, have serious objections to the recent drafts of the proposed treaty.

Another area of disagreement is the over the air terrestrial broadcasters exemption from paying royalties for performing copyrighted music. Yet, both the NAB and music industry groups are members of the new coalition.

The academic advisors of the Copyright Alliance are James Gibson (who teaches intellectual property and computer law courses at the University of Richmond School of Law), Michael Ryan (Shearman & Sterling and George Washington University Law School), Michael Einhorn (Rutgers University), Stan Liebowitz (who teaches economics at the University of Texas at Dallas), Ronald Mann (University of Texas law school), Polk Wagner (who teaches intellectual property law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School), and Lee Hollaar (University of Utah School of Computing).

Gibson spoke at the May 17 event. He argued that there is a "fundamental need for a moral conviction" to copyright "that is sorely lacking today".

"You should be able to make a living from your creativity", said Gibson. "It is a part of our national character."

Steve Siwek of Economics, Inc., presented data on the contributions of copyright industries to employment, income, and economic growth.

The creative speakers were Lamont Dozier [Wikipedia], Steve Cropper [Wikipedia], Tim O’Brien [Wikipedia], Tom Paxton [Wikipedia], and Leif Skoogfors (photographer).

The event was attended by reporters, representatives of members of the Copyright Alliance, Congressional staff, and representatives of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and Copyright Office.