NWU Attends Copyright Hearing, Asks for Writers to Be Heard

NWU Attends Copyright Hearing, Asks for Writers to Be Heard

“I’d like to enter into the record this letter I have from the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981, noting there are no authors or other artistic creators on today’s panel.” That’s how Congressman Johnson (D-GA) began his questioning at the hearing I attended on May 16 of the House Judiciary Committee subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. This was the first of many hearings that will eventually produce the first reform of U.S. Copyright law since 1976.

The letter Congressman Johnson was referring to, introduced NWU to the committee as “among the most active contributors to Copyright Office consultations,” including “orphan works” and the need for a copyright small claims court. It urged the committee to hold future hearings “at which the full range of creative workers can testify about the ways that copyright law could be improved,” especially NWU. A statement from the Copyright Alliance, which includes creators and industry groups, was also entered into the record by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA). Links to both are below:

http://nwu.org/sites/nwu.prometheuslabor.com/files/may-14-2013-hearing.pdf

http://www.copyrightalliance.org/2013/05/statement_copyright_alliance_executive_director_sandra_aistars_re_todays_judiciary_0 target="_blank"

The day before the hearing, D.C. member Monica Coleman and I attended a reception co-sponsored by the Copyright Alliance (CA), made up of both creators and industry groups, and the Creative Rights Caucus (CRC), which has 40 Congresspeople as members.  We met CRC Co-Chair Chu (D-CA) and her staff and a number of CA lobbyists. Everyone welcomed NWU’s involvement.

At the hearing, we were joined by Michael Capobianco of Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America, and the hearing room was packed. The only witnesses called were a five-member panel from the Copyright Principals Project (CPP), an invitation-only group of academics, lawyers and a representative from Microsoft. No creators were either invited to the CPP or to testify at the hearing, but many were there to voice our concerns and to try to ensure that the next hearing has a panel of creators. I was there on behalf of the union to try to ensure that NWU is included. 

In the week we had to prepare for the hearing, an ad hoc committee developed that included Edward Hasbrouck (SF), Susan E. Davis (NY), Mike Bradley (SF), Ann Hoffman (DC), Monica, and me. I also met with Bev Brakeman, the UAW Region 9A CAP Director, and Josh Nassar, the UAW Legislative Director in D.C., to begin our first serious lobbying effort in quite some time. We managed to maximize our presence, work on a few different levels, and keep talking through our disagreements. Not as easy as it sounds.

Moving forward, we are putting together a working group that in the short run can produce a preliminary report: “What We Want and Don’t Want in New Copyright Law.” It will require discussion on many aspects of the new law, especially “orphan works” and a federal small claims court. But it will also review prosecution of copyright infringers, reversion of rights, extended collective licensing (ECL), exceptions for the blind, and more. Something like this can be used to help educate members, recruit more writers, and be circulated to the subcommittee so our friends know NWU’s wishlist for the new law.

If you’re interested in being a part of this, contact nwu@nwu.org.

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