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two-ring circus in more ways than one. To everyone's surprise the record of the Senate hearings, which lasted 10 days and ended on April 28, 1967, very nearly equals that of the House hearings in size and content.
Of the several areas that emerged as fullblown issues at the Senate hearings, by far the most important is the problem of the use of copyrighted works in automated information storage and retrieval systems. This problem was addressed separately in the context of the creation of a National Commission on New Technological Cses which Congress enacted as separate legislation only last year, and which is still awaiting stafling from the White House.
Meanwhile, as the 1967 legislative momentum began to slow more and more, it was increasingly apparent that cable television had become the make-or-break issue for copyright revision. Although the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee worked long and hard between 1968 and 1970 to resolve controversies over a number of issues other than cable, and succeeded in reporting the revised bill to the full Senate Judiciary (Committee during the 01st Congress, it was not able to push rvision any further.
An etiort spearheaded by the Copyright Office to gain enactment of a "barebones" bill, containing everything except the cable section and other controversial provisions dealing with economic rights, also failed for tactical reasons.
By 1971, it was apparent that the bill was completely stymied over the CiTV issue, and even the issuance of comprehensive FCC rules in 1972, governing the carriage of signals and programing by cable sv-tems, failed to break the impasse.
Because of this long delay, Congress has passed a series of successive bills extending the term of expiring copyrights. These now run through the end of the current Congress, and are scheduled to expire on December 31, 1970. The urgent problem of tape piracy was also taken care of through separate legislation.
A total of 7 years passed between House passage of the bill in 1967 and the resumption of its active consideration in the Senate subcommittee last year.
There may have been other reasons, but certainly the most immediate cause of the Revision bill's new momentum was the Supreme ('ourt's decision in CBS v. Teleprompter, in March 1974, holding that under the 1909 statute, cable systems are not liable for copyright infringement when they import distant signals.
The decision was followed quickly by favorable actions in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee and full committee and, after a brief referral to the Commerce ('ommittee, by passage in the Senate on September 9, 1975, by a vote of 70 to 1.
In late November, your subcommittee held a hearing which, in one respect, was a forerunner of these hearings. I testified in an optimistic vein at that time, and I remain hopeful that at long last the entire revision measure will be enacted into law during the current Congress.
Mr. Chairman, this is the end of my prepared statement, but I would also like to identify seven or perhaps eight issues which will certainly come before you. I am preparing what I hope will be a sorond supplementary report of ths register of copyrights which will be
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available to you and also to the subcommittee by the time you need to consider the bill in a markup sense.
This would not be something that would be part of the record of this hearing, but I would hope that I might have a chance to speak to it again later toward the end of these hearings or perhaps during the markup sessions.
I have no intention now in trying to guess what the other witnesses are going to say or in arguing anyone's case.
My feeling as the head of the Copyright Office is that my responsibility is to one group and one group only, and that is the group that is identified as the sole and only beneficiary of the copyright law of the United States under the Constitution, the authors of the so-called writings. In other words, the creators of copyrighted works as we now know them.
I am profoundly of the belief that authors in this country have been treated shabbily and stingily from the very beginning of our copyright system.
And, whatever I say will be with the thought that the situation of authors, not only as the creators of works of economic value, but as something that is infinitely precious to our country, needs to be promoted.
I don't think this has been done effectively under previous legislation. I will return to this point later. I am also conscious that everyone else besides the author is a user of the author's work, and as between users there may be arguments which are extremely persuasive for reasons unrelated to protection of the author but in some respects are irrelevant to the essential purpose of the copyright law.
In these areas I think compromises have been reached. I think compromises have been necessary and I think further compromises will be made. But it is vitally important that you consider the effect of a particular provision on the individual author and not primarily of its effect on an economic group using the author's work for good or for ill.
Turning to H.R. 2223, as it now stands, I will try to give you an idea of its framework and its approach and pinpoint a few of the major issues that you will be hearing debated in the weeks to come.
In the long, I am afraid, and rather boring statement that I made on the history of this project, I did want to make a point. Obviously, there is a long history behind the provisions in this bill, and aside from the chairman, all the members of your subcommittee are coming on it as new legislation, and you should not take it on faith.
No one in their right mind would ask you to. What I am trying to say, though, is that your predecessor members on the subcommittee went over most of these provisions in vast and searching detail. And, to a remarkable degree, aside from a few of the widely-publicized issues like cable, your subcommittee did its work so well that the basic legislation and its wording have become generally accepted.
A lot of things are not issues that once were, because what you did has been accepted. I think you will realize this as you go along.
Very simply, the present law is outdated, it is vague, it is ambiguous, it is arbitrary, and results in a great deal of unproductive work both on the part of those who have to operate under it and on the part of the Copyright Office.
It is completely unlike any other copyright law in the world and, in some cases, is simply a historic vestige. We have in this country a dual system of copyright. We are the only country that has this. We have a sistem that consists of common law copyright in a work up to the point of first publication. At that point the work either falls into the public domain or it becomes subject to statutory copyright. Publication is the dividing line between common law protection and rither the public domain or the limited statutory protection of the 19909 law.
I don't think I need to stress that the concept of publication has now become outdated and slightly ridiculous. We are now in an era in which there are very few works that are not capable of being disseminated by media other than print, and many works never see print and are disseminated entirely through various electronic media.
This system has resulted in peculiarities and injustices, none of these less than the monstrous formalities that were retained and added to in the 1909 law. The fact is that if you publish a work, publish in the print sense, without a copyright notice in the correct form and position, vou throw your work into the public domain regardless of what your intentions were.
The revision bill attempts to deal with the entire copyright situation as it now exists and, to the extent that it is possible to predict it, into the next century.
It provides essentially a simple system which is nothing novel. This system exists everywhere in the world. It is a system of a term based on the creation of the work. In other words, when the author figuratively lifts his pen from his paper, he has a copyright under the Federal law and under the Constitution, and he has it for his lifetime.
There is no possibility that it would expire during his life, which is possible and in fact likely, under the present law. The international porn for the term of copyright is the life of the author plus 50 years. This is now in effect in a large majority of countries that have copyright laws.
Mr. DANIELSON. Mr. Chairman, I should like to inquire.
Vr. DANIELSON. Ms. Ringer, you just mentioned that automatically under the bill the creator has a lifetime copyright. Perhaps as we go along as a new member of this subcommittee, I will have my present question resolved.
Is I read the Constitution it authorizes to secure for limited times and in the absence of compelling evidence I am going to assume we have the right to make that less than a lifetime.
Can you explain that difference, please?
Vs. RincER. There is nothing unconstitutional about the present law which provides a first term of 28 years with a second term under a renewal system of 28 years; and as I mentioned this second term has been extended by recent enactments of ('ongress.
There is nothing unconstitutional about that. It the same time, I woulil tind myself unable to agree with any argument that a term band on the life of the author and a finite number of years after his death was not a limited term.
Obiously people clie. Everyone dies and that in itself is a limited torm. If you add 50 years after that, you are definitely creating a limited term.
I think a better argument could be made that, under the present law, when you lift the pen from the paper you have an automatic common law copyright that is perpetual as long as the work is not "published."
And I believe there might be some question as to whether or not this is constitutional. That there are many, many manuscripts sitting over in the Library of Congress which may well be subject to protection for generations, centuries, perhaps even eons.
This seems against the public interest. One of the arguments for a life-plus-50 term is that not only does it provide a clearcut cutoff date but the date is the same for every work that an author writes.
In other words, for all of an author's works under a life-plus-50 system, every work falls into the public domain at the same time and you don't have this system that we have now where you have to do a lot of research to determine when a work falls into the public domain.
Mr. DANIELSON. Suppose Congress would enact a law which would limit this to 10 years, which might very well be less than a lifetime?
Ms. RINGER. I am not suggesting that the system in the bill is something dictated by the Constitution or anything other than international norms that have been established and accepted throughout the rest of the world.
What I am saying is that 10 years might be sufficient
Mr. DaviELSON. I am only talking about constitutionality. If we limited a copyright to 10 years, I can see no reason why that would not be constitutional.
Ms. Ringer. Nor can I.
Ms. Ringer. Thank you. The present 'bill, the bill we are now considering, H.R. 2223, in addition retains the formalities that have been bugaboos under the present law, but liberalizes them to the extent that they are not the all-or-nothing disasters that authors face now.
In other words, if you publish your work without a notice or with an incorrect notice, the bill allows you to correct your mistake. This is true of other formalities. You would do something because there is a reason for it and not just because the law says you have to.
There is another provision which I am doubtful anyone will raise as an issue, but I might mention in the context of the general content of the bill. There are reforms that are of benefit to authors and artists with respect to ownership, in addition to the longer term, and one of the most notable of these is in section 203 of the bill.
Instead of the present complex and rather arbitrary and capricious renewal provisions, it allows an author or his beneficiaries to re-do a bad deal. In effect, the present law was intended to accomplish that result but has been most imperfect in doing this.
Section 203 is the reversion provision which basically allows an author, if he is still living or his widow and children and grandchildren to terminate a transfer after 35 years under certain circumstances.
If they don't do that, then the contract continues. If they do do it, then they have an absolute right to call the deal to a halt. In my opinion, despite the complexity of the provisions, it is a real plus for authors.
Let me say that most of the real issues that you are going to be considering are not going to be before you in the testimony. The real issues are the reform of the copyright law and the things that I have been talking about.
The issues that you will be hearing about are very, very important to authors, among other groups, but they are almost all outside the basic guts, if you will, of the bill itself.
The most important of these separate issues still remains, cable television. There were some hopeful signs in the early seventies that an agreement might be reached on this issue, but they turned out to be somewhat premature.
Let me say that your subcommittee in the middle sixties was a pioneer on this issue. It hit your predecessors cold. There had been some consideration of this in the context of FCC regulations and Senator Pastore had sponsored a bill in the communications area, But in terms of the major issues raised by copyright liability for cable operators, no one before you, in my opinion, had come to grips with the ultimate problems, the question of division of markets, and the importation of local as against distant signals and how the whole thing might be worked out in a way that will benefit authors.
Your first essay on this, your bill that was put before the House in 1967, was a pioneering effort, and no one should be ashamed of it.
I think it is recognized today as more sophisticated than anyone could have expected for a bill at that time. You recognized complex truths about this important public issue before others did and in fact up until the end of the sixties, people were still asking, what is cable television?
This issue. I believe, is finally approaching a resolution, although there will be sharply conflicting testimony. You cannot blame people for wanting to get the best deal they can, and nothing is black, white, or even gray on this issue.
I will answer any questions that you have. The bill itself establishes a compulsory licensing system which in effect is based on this principle, that if the FCC says that a system can carry a signal, then the
Putem automatically has a compulsory license to carry that signal and the copyrighted program, on the signal, and there is an elaborate compulsory licensing procedure and a complex schedule of fers that cable systems would have to follow and pay in order to insulate themselves from liability for copyright infringement.
E-sentially, the thing is basically a complete compulsory license. The bill that you reported in 1967 did not have a compulsory license for CATV', although you considered it. It did have exemptions and complete liability. It was black and white and no grav.
What has emerged is quite (lifferent and yet I think that the principles underlying it are still the same principles and I think the result in probably an acceptable one.
The testimony you hear, I hope, will be largely over the details of the system and not whether or not cable ought to pay. There will be some testimony to this effect, but it seems to me that maybe we are beyond that point. As things stand now, it is mainly a question of how they pay and how much.
Another issue which was not dealt with by your committee at all, although you heard testimony on it, was that of library photo