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Copyright Conversation Alert at CES

Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show, several of the policy track panels discussed copyright but one panel focused on it, a panel titled "Beyond SOPA: Creating a Pro-innovation, Pro-artist Copyright Policy." Unfortunately the panel was very short on discussion as to how to create a pro-artist copyright policy. That discussion could have been quite insightful and thought provoking.

Instead the panelists spent most of their time discussing concerns about further lengthening the term of copyright (creators are generally granted exclusive rights to their works, including making copies, selling copies, creating derivative works and the right to perform or display their work publicly for 70 years after the creator's death, whether copyright is abusive and whether, following the SOPA (The Stop Online Piracy Act) debate and implosion of last year, this is the year to mount a "counterattack on copyright." The panelists generally noted that "anything that turns back the clock (on copyright law) is a success."

One might wonder why so much time and energy was focused on the past. SOPA, and the Senate companion bill PIPA (Protect IP Act), flamed out spectacularly to be sure and that alone guarantees some attention, but over the year since that happened the relevant industries, such as internet service providers and content owners, have moved on, including focusing on the continued progress of a new take down regime -- the Copyright Alert System.

According to the Center for Copyright Information , the organization that is coordinating six major ISPs, the "Copyright Alerts are part of a progressive educational system to help subscribers understand the significance of protecting copyright in the digital environment, to advise them about the importance of avoiding inadvertent or intentional online distribution of copyrighted content, and to suggest legal ways to obtain digital content. These alerts will be similar to current credit card fraud alerts." Press reports have indicated that the new system will kick off by March and that all of the participating ISPs will have the system up and running with in a month of that launch.

Like the new system or hate the new system (and some may not know yet as many of the details are not yet public) the fact of the matter is that this is an attempt to address one copyright protection issue complaint -- how to handle properly handle potential copyright infringers. Does it answer every gripe about copyright? Absolutely not. And truth be told some people will never be satisfied because in the end they do no want any protection for copyright, or at least do not want any protection for copyrighted works that would actually protect the creator. But putting aside that small (but vocal) sliver of people who may not engage in this important debate in good faith, others involved need to look to the future and acknowledge the work that is being done, that is better than another legislative battle, Changes being made where it matters, with the companies involved and the consumer.

Discussions about the protection of IP rights should be robust, including many voices but should also be honest. Conversations should center on creators and how they are effected. Perhaps next year, with the kabuki-like fights on Capitol Hill a more distant memory, we can hear ideas on how to enhance the copyright regime to make sure we have and maintain a pro-creator copyright policy.

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