Content owners warn Congress of “fair use creep,” draw ridicule

copyright

Groups representing the movie, music and photography industries testified before Congress on Thursday, and called on the government to consider changing laws to do more to address piracy and file-sharing.

The testimony, which took place before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, is part of a larger review by Congress of America’s copyright policy. The review is significant because it will help shape the rules for culture and creativity on the internet in coming decades.

The proceedings included a gimmick in which members of Congress a movie clip of various 3D content, followed by a warning that such creativity could be snuffed out without stronger laws: “If an environment exists that does not provide adequate copyright protection and blockbuster films become unaffordable and unprofitable due to the threat of piracy, this new and thriving 3D industry will be significantly hampered,” studio executive William Sherak told the subcommittee.

The industry groups also repeatedly invoked “fair use creep” to claim that copyright is being undermined by a long-standing legal rule that lets people make free use of creative works for purposes like scholarship or reporting. The phrase, however, drew mockery on Twitter:

Such comments reflect frustrations among librarians and groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation that the copyright review appears to be entirely tilted toward large industry groups without considering the public interest.

Copyright law has become contentious in recent years, in part because Congress, in response to lobbying from companies like Disney, has dramatically expanded the terms of copyright and removed works like “Peter and the Wolf” from the public domain.

The subcommittee will hear from members of the tech industry next week.

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