May 17, 2007 9:16 AM PDT

Backers of stronger copyright laws form lobby group

WASHINGTON--Some of the staunchest advocates for stricter copyright laws have formed a new alliance designed to pressure Congress into preserving stronger intellectual property rights.

The Copyright Alliance--which launched, complete with electric-green and white T-shirts displaying its logo at a morning Capitol Hill event here--consists of 29 national organizations and companies that purport to represent 11 million workers in copyright-related industries. Those members include the Recording Industry Association of America, the Association of American Publishers, the Motion Picture Association of America, Microsoft, Viacom and Walt Disney.

The group's members aren't expected to agree on all the nuances of policy debates, said Patrick Ross, the alliance's executive director.

But according to a press release, they're all committed to broad goals like promoting the "vital role" of copyright in the U.S. economy and job market, encouraging inclusion of copyright protection requirements in international agreements, supporting civil and criminal penalties for piracy, and advocating against "diminishment" of copyright law.

As copyrighted works become ever more widely distributed through digital means, those who own the rights "still want to get paid," Ross said.

The group's formation drew applause from key politicians who preside over copyright law changes, including U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), who heads a key House panel that influences copyright laws.

In a brief appearance at Thursday's event, Berman, who represents suburban Los Angeles, credited the late Jack Valenti, a former MPAA head, with encouraging him to get involved in intellectual property lawmaking after he was first elected to Congress in 1982. Berman spoke of the need to combat "the constant assaults on copyright law" and called the group's formation "a tremendous idea."

"Sometimes the image our opponents like to draw of 'the industry' just isn't a realistic portrait of what's going on," he told about 70 people gathered for the event, after noting that "some dear friends" were in attendance.

He admitted that his timeline for copyright law action was unclear, thanks in part to a focus on contentious patent law revisions. But he suggested that his priorities will revolve around updating the way royalties are paid to artists, including taking another look at traditional radio's long-standing exemption from a certain class of payments, something its counterparts in the Internet-based and satellite sphere do not enjoy.

At the event, the alliance sought to draw attention to the importance of copyright-dependent industries by showing a short video depicting photographers, animators and other artists deemed "the face of copyright." Grammy-winning Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier, guitarist and Booker T and the MGs member Steve Cropper, famed folk singer Tom Paxton and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Tim O'Brien also showed up to tout the importance of copyright to their livelihoods.

The Copyright Alliance's message, however, is not without competition. October marked the launch of a Washington-based alliance, called the Digital Freedom Campaign, whose members include the Consumer Electronics Association, advocacy group Public Knowledge, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

That group argues that big labels and studios are threatening to squelch new gadgets and consumer freedom by chipping away at the fair use rights written into copyright law. They support proposals like the Fair Use Act, sponsored by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and three of his House colleagues, which would amend the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act to allow consumers the legal right to pick digital locks on copyrighted works for certain home or educational purposes.

RIAA President Cary Sherman, for his part, has denounced the group's stance as an "extremist" interpretation of the law designed to frighten consumers and policymakers.

See more CNET content tagged:
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8 comments

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Apparently, I'm an Extremist
I'm so disgusted by what some of these people have done with copyright, it makes me nearly speechless. Disney is at the top of that list. Just a few thoughts:
fair use, patron/artist relationship, public domain.

How much would your life truly be diminished if Law and Order had never been broadcast?
Posted by EnvoyPV (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Gee, me too
I've always believed that artistic works belong to the public, and copyright is a limited right to control distribution for a short period of time. Silly me, I guess I should be paying Shakespeare Inc. every time I quote Hamlet.
Posted by alflanagan (115 comments )
Link Flag
I'm tired of this
Why is it a singer, or song writer somehow deserve to make millions of dollars off something they spent a small amount of time working on? There should be a cap on the profit of a copyright. If you write a song and make a million from it then that copyright should expire. If you want to make more then go out and perform it. I'm an average Joe, who works 50 hours a week and I'm lucky to get a %4 raise at the end of the year, yet somehow my congressman is more concerned about the guy who made millions last year doing nothing but singing a stupid freaking song!! I'm over it!
Posted by Arrgster (92 comments )
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Perhaps....
... you should write software programs that are better that Microsoft's and then you will become the next Bill Gates. And, don't forget there are "dead" folks that are making much, much more than you. Re: The King! LOL.
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
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World's smallest violin
Id have a lot more sympathy for copyright holders if....

1) The big business interests behind it were actually paying their creative talent (artists, writers etc) based on the profits derived from copyright, rather than on a contractual basis, whereby record label can haul in money for decades by re releasing songs as soundtracks for movies etc without paying the song writers any more money, etc.

2) Big business wasn't charging so much money for lukewarm rehashings of products, and derivative products designed for the lowest common denominator.
Posted by perfectblue97 (326 comments )
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Youv'e got that right
"1) The big business interests behind it were actually paying their creative talent (artists, writers etc) based on the profits derived from copyright, rather than on a contractual basis, whereby record label can haul in money for decades by re releasing songs as soundtracks for movies etc without paying the song writers any more money, etc."

If most people knew how little the actual artist gets from the sale of a CD or whatever medium their art is on they would be outraged.
Posted by befuddledms (113 comments )
Link Flag
Stronger Intellectual Property Rights?:
Just what does "stronger" mean? Does it mean they want to punish people with longer jail sentences or they want copyright laws to allow a copyright to last 1000 years?

Either way, this seems silly.

Copyright does not need to extend forever. We already stretch copyright protection longer than other countries, I believe.

As for punishment for violating, those who are serious copyright infringers already serve years in jail. What more do they want? Do they want everybody to serve a year in jail just for good measure?

I have a very serious question: just how much piracy exists inside the borders of the United States. I often hear numbers quoted from the music industry and software industry, as examples, and I can only believe that those very high numbers consider all international piracy. Let's forget what happens outside the US, because Congress has no control over it. Just what level of piracy do we see inside the United States?

(Regardless of the answer to that question, do we not already have laws to cover such piracy?)
Posted by paulej (1261 comments )
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