Creative Commons Urges Lawmakers to Reform Copyright Laws for Intellectual Property

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 18: A mobile device shows Wikipedia's front page displaying a darkened logo on January 18, 2012 in London, England. The Wikipedia website has shut down it's English language service for 24 hours in protest over the US anti-piracy laws. 
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Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
Oct. 18, 2013, 1:09 p.m.

A non­profit group that has provided mil­lions of simple, stream­lined copy­right li­censes over the past dec­ade is­sued a policy state­ment this week ur­ging law­makers around the world to re­form copy­right law to make cre­at­ive works more open to pub­lic do­main.

Cre­at­ive Com­mons is­sued the state­ment in the face of more re­strict­ive in­tel­lec­tu­al-prop­erty trends — both over­seas and do­mest­ic­ally — to dis­pute sug­ges­tions that “the very suc­cess of CC li­censes means that copy­right re­form is un­ne­ces­sary.” 

“CC li­censes are a patch, not a fix, for the prob­lems of the copy­right sys­tem,” the state­ment reads. “However well-craf­ted a pub­lic li­cens­ing mod­el may be, it can nev­er fully achieve what a change in the law would do, which means that law re­form re­mains a press­ing top­ic.”¦ CC li­censes are not a sub­sti­tute for users’ rights.”

Cre­at­ive Com­mons was foun­ded in 2001 by a group of in­tel­lec­tu­al-prop­erty ad­voc­ates to make it easi­er for in­di­vidu­als to share their cre­at­ive work with one an­oth­er. Small, cir­cu­lar “CC” lo­gos are nearly ubi­quit­ous on the In­ter­net, as the group has provided li­censes to hun­dreds of mil­lions of works ran­ging from songs to video and schol­arly ma­ter­i­als.

But the state­ment, which Com­mons said it spent a year de­vel­op­ing, makes clear the group is dis­heartened by the dir­ec­tion copy­right laws have headed dur­ing the di­git­al age.

“The trend, in­ter­na­tion­ally, is to have more re­strict­ive copy­right laws,” said Maira Sut­ton, a glob­al policy ana­lyst with the Elec­tron­ic Fron­ti­er Found­a­tion who fo­cuses on in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­erty. “What this state­ment does is, it al­lows af­fil­i­ates to use their CC hat and say we’re in­volved in this in­ter­na­tion­al co­ali­tion push­ing to make copy­right laws more sane.”

Sut­ton said the state­ment could carry a lot of heft be­cause of the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s large af­fil­i­ate base and its im­port­ant stand­ing. But as in­flu­en­tial as Com­mons has been over the past dec­ade, oth­ers re­main skep­tic­al that its words will carry any ser­i­ous clout among law­makers.

“Cre­at­ive Com­mons is a fairly power­ful camp, but it pales in com­par­is­on to big in­dus­tries who have a lot of in­flu­ence on Con­gress,” said Dav­id Sun­shine, an in­tel­lec­tu­al-prop­erty law­yer with Cozen O’Con­nor. Sun­shine noted that law­makers changed copy­right law “at the per­son­al be­hest of Dis­ney” when it passed the Copy­right Term Ex­ten­sion Act of 1998, which in­creased the length of time copy­right pro­tec­tions could ex­ist after the death of the au­thor.

“They’re say­ing there should be less pro­tec­tion be­cause of the nature of tech­no­logy, and in­stead the op­pos­ite is hap­pen­ing,” Sun­shine said. “I don’t see a whole lot in the way of change hap­pen­ing.”

The Di­git­al Mil­len­ni­um Copy­right Act, passed in 1998, was the last ma­jor up­date to U.S. copy­right law. It in­ten­ded to ret­ro­fit ex­ist­ing law with pro­vi­sions ac­count­ing for the In­ter­net’s ex­plos­ive growth, but the Web has changed dra­mat­ic­ally in the past 15 years.

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