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Public Knowledge Group Calls For Copyright Law Changes

The group's six-point policy change includes seeking a law to exempt search indexing from infringement claims.

Copyright law has lost touch with reality and needs a serious overhaul, according to an intellectual property lobby group that is pushing for a six-point policy change.

Public Knowledge released a reform proposal Friday, calling for fair use reform, limits on secondary liability, protection from frivolous takedown requests, new royalties for broadcasters, "orphan works" reform, and clear notification from copyright holders regarding limitations on fair use.

The group wants to add incidental, transformative, and noncommercial use of content to the legal test for fair use and it is seeking a law to exempt search indexing from infringement claims. Public Knowledge wants the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the 1984 Sony Betamax case to become law, meaning technology manufacturers cannot be held liable as long as the technology has "substantial noninfringing use."

Another example of this is the lawsuit that the French news agency Agence France-Presse filed against Google in March 2005. The news organization claimed Google, through its search indexing technology, infringed its copyrights by taking photos and stories from AFP subscribers' Web sites and offering them to Google users.

Congress should amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by allowing legal relief for legitimate users who have suffered from frivolous takedown requests, the group said.

"Pre-VCR copyright policies must be transformed to embrace our new user-generated culture," Public Knowledge President Gigi B. Sohn said in a speech to the New Media and the Marketplace of Ideas Friday. "For the past 35 years, the trend has been nearly unmitigated expansion of the scope and duration of copyright, resulting in a clear mismatch between the technology and the law. Over the past decade, copyright reformers like Public Knowledge have stopped the pendulum from swinging even farther away from digital reality. Now it is time to move the pendulum towards the future and away from the past."

Sohn's group also wants to require broadcasters to pay royalties like satellite and Internet radio companies do, limit the damages for use of works whose holders cannot be found after a good-faith search, and to create visual registries to protect visual artists and photographers.

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