Few have heard of the Librarian of Congress, but the person holding this office not only oversees the U.S. Copyright Office, but also decides what content deserves copyright protection. The position is currently vacant, and this has created enormous opportunity for digital content juggernauts such as YouTube and Netflix to push for reforms to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Partner Michael Donaldson spoke with the San Francisco Chronicle about the necessity for such reform.
Mr. Donaldson believes that copyright holders should be properly paid for their work, but at the same time, things need to speed up in order to serve the public interest. “I would imagine the new Librarian will focus on this,” said Mr. Donaldson.
The DMCA was passed in 1998, before the advent of high-speed Internet, smartphones and social media. At the time, copyright holders feared the unauthorized transfer of material from physical formats (such as DVDs) to websites. The law’s “notice-and-take-down” provision, meant to prevent such transfers, is now largely irrelevant given widespread Internet use and the speed at which users can post material online.
“We represent lots of documentary filmmakers, and they use archival material,” Mr. Donaldson continued. “Obtaining the material without committing a crime is critical.”