OVERNIGHT TECH: House panel to appraise art copyrights

THE LEDE: House lawmakers will debate the finer aspects of copyright law on Tuesday in a hearing with artists and lawyers.

The Judiciary subcommittee on Intellectual Property is planning to focus specifically on moral rights, termination rights, resale royalties and copyright term as part of its ongoing analysis of current law. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), the subcommittee’s top Democrat, pledged to use the session to advance his bill to grant royalties to visual artists when their work is resold by an auctioneer, collector or other third party.

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“We should join the 70 other countries who provide a resale royalty right in an effort to fairly compensate visual artists,” he said in a statement on Monday. His American Royalties Too (ART) Act, introduced in February, would make sure that American artists get some royalties when their work is resold either in the U.S. or around the world. “My bill attempts to correct an existing injustice and would help American artists wherever their works are sold — whether it be in New York, London, or Paris.”

Nadler’s legislation came on the heels of a Copyright Office report supporting the notion of a resale royalty in the U.S. Karyn Claggett, head of policy and international affairs at the Copyright Office, will make the case again on Tuesday. “The issue of resale royalties is at its core an issue of fundamental fairness,” she said in written testimony. “[T]here is a compelling international trend that makes U.S. review of the resale royalty right timely and important.”

In addition to that measure, lawmakers will also discuss the rights of people who create copyrighted content, known as moral rights. Rick Carnes, head of the Songwriters Guild of America and penner of songs for musicians including Garth Brooks and Alabama, said that a creator’s right to control the use of their creation is “widely embraced by the American public.”

Casey Rae, vice president for policy and education at the pro-musician Future of Music Coalition, will argue in favor of termination rights, which let songwriters have a “second bite at the apple” and recapture their copyright 35 years after transferring it away. “These rights are especially important today, given the evolution of the marketplace,” he said in written testimony, noting artists’ ability to cash in licenses for video games or sell music directly to fans.

Pressure on for tax-free Web: The House is set to vote on the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act on Tuesday, and lawmakers are being pressed from all sides to support the effort.

The Information Technology Industry Council sent a letter calling the bill, which prevents states from taxing Internet access, “vital to the innovation economy,” and said it would be scoring lawmakers' votes for its upcoming voting guide. Leaders of CTIA-The Wireless Association called the legislation critical for people trying to access the Internet on their smartphones. And Americans for Tax Reform and its Digital Liberty project are sending a letter on Tuesday urging members to “protect your constituents from an unnecessary barrier to the most self-improving technology that has existed thus far.”

Existing prohibitions on taxes for Web access are set to run out this November, but would be renewed indefinitely under the bill from Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

House Republican applauds FCC anti-fraud task force: Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Commerce subcommittee on Communications, applauded Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler for creating a new task force to prevent fraud in the Universal Service Fund. That subsidy funds multiple programs aimed at increasing connectivity, including for schools, libraries, low-income households and rural areas.

“Identifying and eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse to protect taxpayer dollars has been a top priority for House Republicans, and we welcome Chairman Wheeler’s additional focus within the Universal Service Fund," Walden said in a statement Monday, calling growth in the subsidy program an “increasing cost on consumers’ monthly phone bill.” Walden said he looks forward to working with Wheeler to cut down on fraud and waste. “The FCC has a responsibility to ensure any dollars being spent are being spent wisely and efficiently,” he said.

Comments closing on net neutrality plans: The window closes on the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) first round of comments for new net neutrality regulations Tuesday at midnight, and groups across the spectrum are making their voices heard.

Words of warning from the right: A coalition of more than a dozen free market advocacy groups formally protested FCC intervention and claimed that the Web’s “healthy development came primarily through the lack of government regulation, not because of it.” The FCC should tread lightly, argued groups including Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and Americans for Tax Reform, and wait for “Congressional direction” before getting involved.

Robert McDowell, a Republican and former commissioner on the FCC, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post on Monday arguing that “market failures” that supporters of tough regulations fear “have never happened, and nothing is broken that needs fixing.”

“During my seven years as a FCC commissioner, I lived through several iterations of the net neutrality debate. Its proponents have broadened the term’s definition each time to serve their own growing purposes, both here and abroad,” he wrote. “Inviting regulators into your neighborhood is likely to embolden them to control not only your neighbor but you, too.”

Reddit is crowd-sourcing its comments: For its message to the FCC, social forum site Reddit is turning to its outspoken user base for help. The site is asking for comments, stories and arguments in support of strong regulations.

“We want to feature some of your stories and thoughts in our filing,” the site said in a weekend blog post. “As we might have never been founded without net neutrality, we're asking you to share in the comments some of the stories, experiences and events that wouldn't have been possible without reddit. We'd like the FCC to hear it from your point of view.

Reddit has pushed for the FCC to take the bold step of reclassifying the Internet as a public utility like phone lines.

‘Wardrobe malfunction’ still No. 1 most commented: The FCC has received more than 647,000 comments about its plans for net neutrality but the issue is far from drawing the most comments ever. That honor still rests with Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl, FCC official Gigi Sohn confirmed on Monday. “Janet Jackson incident had 1.4 million comments” she noted in a Twitter chat on the subject. “We’re about half-way there!”

 

ON TAP:

At 10 a.m., four Democratic senators will call for the FCC to reclassify the Internet so it can be regulated like a public utility.

The Senate Commerce Committee will vote for Bruce Andrews to be the deputy secretary of Commerce among a slew of nominations around noon.

Around the same time, the House will begin discussion of the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act.

The House Judiciary subcommittee looks at copyright issues at 1:00.

At 2:30, the Senate Judiciary Committee takes on cyber criminal networks known as botnets.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

The White House says there is nothing it can do to help electric car company Tesla Motors sell cars directly to consumers.

A trade group representing giants in the tech industry — including Google, Facebook and Netflix — is asking regulators to get involved when Internet providers and websites fight over traffic. 

The FCC is putting together a team to crack down on fraud in the agency’s multibillion-dollar phone and Internet subsidy programs.

Germany's parliamentary committee investigating the National Security Agency is mulling using manual typewriters to make sure American agents don’t snoop on its work. 

Companies aren’t waiting on Congress to ensure that the billions of dollars in electronic payments flowing through data networks each year are defended from hackers.

 

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