Remarks of Assistant Secretary Strickling on Copyright Policy, Creativity and Innovation in the Digital Economy

December 16, 2013

Remarks of Lawrence E. Strickling
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information
at the Department of Commerce Public Meeting:
Copyright Policy, Creativity and Innovation in the Digital Economy
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Alexandria, Virginia

December 12, 2013

Thanks to all of you for joining us today.  NTIA is extremely pleased to join our colleagues at PTO in continuing the important work of the Internet Policy Task Force as we focus our attention on digital copyright issues.  Today we are asking you to help us as we begin our work to translate the ideas and issues identified in the Green paper into more concrete proposals.

Our agenda today reflects the broad range of parties with an interest in ensuring that we find the right balance between protecting and promoting copyrighted works online, while encouraging technological innovation.  Among those here today are those who create copyrighted works, Internet and online service providers that provide digital access to those works, and users of those digital works.

As Andrew mentioned, the copyright Green paper grew out of the Commerce Department’s Internet Policy Task Force and was the result of a truly collaborative process.  We worked with our colleagues at PTO and in other bureaus at the Commerce Department, and have sought comment from a wide variety of stakeholders outside the Administration.

The green paper asks for input on five specific issues.  These include:

  • First, examining the relevance and scope of the first-sale doctrine in the digital environment;
  • Second, determining what legal framework should govern the creation of remixes and mashups, which involves using parts of creative works in new ways;
  • Third, we’re looking at the calibration of statutory damages for both individual file-sharers and online services found liable for large-scale infringement under theories of secondary liability;
  • Fourth, we are assessing whether government has a role to play in improving the online marketplace, including access to comprehensive databases of rights information.
  • Last, we want to start a multistakeholder dialogue aimed at improving the operation of the notice-and-takedown system for removing infringing content from the Internet.

Now the green paper provides a starting point for discussion.  We did not offer policy prescriptions.  Instead, we identified key issues for you and others to debate to ensure that copyright keeps pace with technological change.  Your participation will help us achieve the goals of the green paper, which aims to balance the importance of copyright protections to incentivizing the creative process, while ensuring that Internet innovation can continue to grow and prosper. 

For example, the multistakeholder dialogue we will convene to improve the notice-and-takedown system will involve a wide variety of stakeholders with different perspectives, including rights holders, Internet Service Providers, consumer and public interest representatives and companies in the business of identifying infringing content. 

Now some of you may not be very familiar with multistakeholder processes, so let me take a moment to provide you some context.  The multistakeholder process is one that we at NTIA and the Department of Commerce have championed as an effective model for dealing with a wide range of issues related to the Internet both internationally and domestically.  Internationally, we have worked with stakeholders from around the world to help solve tough policy issues related to the Internet through such groups as ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and the IGF, the Internet Governance Forum.  If you are following the debate on Internet governance internationally, this is the major issue to determine whether Internet policy will be set by multistakeholder groups or by just governments.  And that is an issue we will be engaging in quite heavily over the next 12 to 24 months.

Here at home, we are using the multistakeholder process to apply the Administration’s Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights to various business contexts.  Earlier this year, we completed a code of conduct developed through a multistakeholder process on mobile app transparency.  And we just announced last week that we will be launching our second process after the first of the year, which will focus on the use of facial recognition technology.

Now the multistakeholder approach facilitates transparency and promotes cooperation.  It allows innovation to flourish while building trust and protecting other rights and interests.  It has been key to our approach to Internet policy and we see opportunities to utilize it as we develop our digital copyright policy as well.

The multistakeholder approach requires hard work.  To be successful, the approach requires that everyone listen carefully to the viewpoints of others and then work to find common ground. 

Everybody in this room remembers the disputes over SOPA and PIPA in Congress a couple of years ago.  It was a difficult debate and it left a lot of bruises.  And looking back at that debate and looking forward to our work on the issues identified in the Green Paper, we think using a multistakeholder approach - similar to ones we have deployed in other Internet-related contexts - might help bridge some of the differences between stakeholders on these important issues.

The goals espoused in the green paper – ensuring a meaningful copyright system that continues to provide the necessary incentives for creative expressionism, while preserving technology innovation – are ones we think can and must be accomplished in tandem.  To achieve these goals, it is critical that we hear from a wide variety of stakeholders, including those who create content, those who distribute it and those who consume those works – and everyone in between.

Now before we get on with the business at hand, I want to thank some people whose contributions were critical to the green paper and to the continued debate.  First at PTO, Shira Perlmutter and Garrett Levin have both put an enormous amount of effort into the green paper.  And in fact, it was really Shira’s leadership when she came on board that drove it past the finish line.  So thank you Shira.  I also want to thank NTIA’s contributors: John Morris, along with Jade Nester, Aaron Burstein and Ashley Heineman.  Together with the Internet Policy Task Force, they have provided an excellent roadmap for future work.  Now it is up to all of us to move forward to establish the policies we need in this important area.  Thank you very much.