June 24, 2005  ·  Lessig

According to Cathy Kirkman of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich and Rosati, the Register of Copyrights has decided to propose abolishing the compulsory right granted by section 115 of the Copyright Act. This is the provision that gives recording artists the right to record “covers,” so long as they pay a specified fee.

Remember this quote from a 1967 House Judiciary Report, considering a modification to the law as it existed then:

[T]he record producers argued vigorously that the compulsory license system must be retained. They asserted that the record industry is a half-billion-dollar business of great economic importance in the United States and throughout the world; records today are the principal means of disseminating music, and this creates special problems, since performers need unhampered access to musical material on nondiscriminatory terms. Historically, the record producers pointed out, there were no recording rights before 1909 and the 1909 statute adopted the compulsory license as a deliberate anti-monopoly condition on the grant of these rights. They argue that the result has been an outpouring of recorded music, with the public being given lower prices, improved quality, and a greater choice.

Copyright Law Revision, Committee on the Judiciary, 90th Cong. 1st, Sess., Rep. No. 83 66 (March 8, 1967).

Apparently the Register believes performers no longer “need unhampered access to musical material on nondiscriminatory terms.” What progress.

  • Some guy

    s/Coyprights/Copyrights/; # first line

    s/Registrer/Register/; # last line

  • Joey Esperanza

    Anyone who wants to email/contact Marybeth Peters at the copyright office to express their views should not hesitate to do so. Of course, don’t spam or harass her – but if enough people make their opinions known mabey she will listen?

    Email: mpet@loc.gov
    voice: 202-707-8359
    Fax: 202 707 8366

  • nari lee

    How would this removal of compulsory licensing justifiable under Constitution of the US? As a person who does not know anything aboutt he US Constititution, I am so curious that while there are doctrine such as eminent domain exist and even reaffirmed by the Supreme court, there could a move to remove equivalent implementation in Copyright statutes be jsutifiable?

  • Joseph Pietro Riolo

    To Nari Lee,

    Let’s see what the U.S. Constitution says.
    It says, “To promote the Progress of Science
    and useful Arts, by securing for limited
    Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive
    Right to their respective Writings and
    Discoveries;”.

    The key receivers in that clause are authors
    and inventors. So, any change to the U.S.
    copyright law that will benefit authors is
    justifiable under the clause. However, not
    all changes are justifiable because of the
    constraints as imposed by “limited Times”,
    “Writings”, and First Amendment. The removal
    of compulsory right benefits authors, does
    not violate the constraint of “limited
    Times”, does not violate the constraint of
    “Writings”, and does not violate the First
    Amendment. So, there is nothing wrong with
    it in respect to the U.S. Constitution.
    The responsibility for balancing the
    interests of authors and the public rests
    on Congress.

    One immediate benefit from removal of
    compulsory right is the reduction of
    the already complex U.S. copyright law
    by about 2,800 words (a little more than
    5 pages)! :-)

    Joseph Pietro Riolo
    <riolo@voicenet.com>

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this
    comment in the public domain.

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