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President-elect Donald Trump is meeting today with some of Silicon Valley’s top business leaders.
Ahead of that meeting, content companies sent letters letting Trump know that they’re hoping to see some changes to copyright laws in the near future—changes that technology companies, large and small, are likely to object to.
Yesterday, the RIAA and other stakeholders in the music industry sent a letter (PDF) to the president-elect, asking him for “strong action to enforce intellectual property rights against infringers.”
“As you meet tomorrow with some of the world’s major corporate technology executives, we wanted to highlight some points that are assuring the continued dynamism of music as one of America’s national treasures,” states the letter, which is also signed by the Recording Academy, the Songwriters Guild, the National Music Publishers Association, licensing groups BMI and ASCAP, and other music groups.
The letter hails the contributions of music, saying it “contributes more than $1.2 trillion to our national economy” and creates jobs for more than 5.5 million Americans.
Then, without asking for specific policies or naming names, the letter goes on to suggest that some tech companies are unfairly taking advantage of the situation.
“Search engines, user upload content platforms, hosting companies, and domain name registrars and registries should follow others’ example to effectively stop theft and assure fair payment,” states the letter. “Further, there is a massive ‘value grab’ as some of these corporations weaken intellectual property rights for America’s creators by exploiting legal loopholes never intended for them—perversely abusing US law to underpay music creators, thus harming one of America’s economic and job engines.
Surely the world’s most sophisticated technology corporations can do better—by helping to prevent illegal access and paying fair market value for music with prices set by or based on the free market.”
“Fair use” gone too far
Separately, the News Media Alliance (formerly the Newspaper Association of America) sent the Trump transition team a white paper (PDF) about copyright and other media law matters. The NMA letter, published on Monday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is a real throwback.
It complains about Google News’ publication of snippets and claims that “outdated interpretations of copyright laws mean that the industry is currently forced to give away much of its product for free.” It isn’t clear exactly what NMA means by that, since newspapers aren’t forced to give away their product or anything else for free, and it’s easy enough to opt out of Google News.
The NMA letter goes on to complain that courts are too often finding in favor of fair use. “[W]e support refocusing the fair-use test on its original purpose to prevent courts from undermining the Constitution’s encouragement of compensation to entities that generate creativity and productivity,” the letter states.
The concerns seem squarely focused, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes, on aggregators like Google News and others similar to it.
Some news organizations have long believed Google should pay up for displaying “snippets” of news, even though such small quotes have traditionally been seen as fair use.
The NMA letter goes on to express concern about possible threats to press freedom, expressing support for a press pool so that the public can be informed of the president-elect’s activities. Concerns about press access came up when Trump effectively ditched the press pool twice within a week after his election.
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