Today’s Congressional Testimony on Copyright Reform Will Address Excessive Penalties for Consumers

By Mike Palmedo, infojustice.org


Today at 2pm EST, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet will hold the first hearing to address copyright reform since the announcement by Chairman Goodlatte of a comprehensive review of U.S. copyright law. Prepared witness statements are available, and the hearing webcast will be up on the hearing’s webpage.

This particular hearing will be based on the Report of the Copyright Principles Project.  This was a group of legal academics and practitioners convened in 2007 by Pamela Samuelson at Berkeley Law, which published its report in 2010 with 25 recommendations for copyright reform.  The witnesses – all of whom participated in the project – will be Jon Baumgarten, Laura Gasaway, Daniel Gervais, Jule Sigall, and Pamela Samuelson.

There is an acknowledgement that absurd penalties applied to individual  consumers undermines the system of copyright. Samuelson notes that “grossly excessive statutory damage awards have contributed to public disrespect for copyright law.”  Gervais says that while “’Professional’ pirates should be held accountable under the full force of the law… Unauthorized use by individual users in their private sphere (sometimes caused by misapprehension of, or lack of clarity about, the scope of fair use) is a different matter.”  Sigall suggests that a DMCA-style “safe harbor for consumers, providing certainty that the ordinary and reasonable personal use of legitimately purchased content will be enabled, not stifled, by copyright.”