Recommendations Considered a Win for Online Companies, a Loss for Anyone Reading This
The U.S. Copyright Office issued to Congress its recommendations on clarifying copyright law for online music.

The study was a mandated follow-up on 1998’s riveting Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which laid the ground rules regarding the digital use of intellectual property. The report is expected to be the focal point of an exciting, WCW-style debate regarding the effectiveness of the DMCA.

Recommendations generally sided with online music companies seeking new legislation, which claim that vague rules have left them confused about proper compensation for copyright owners, when placing songs on the Internet. The companies also have complained about music publishers seeking multiple royalty payments that could damage the industry. Meanwhile, music publishers and record labels argue that new legislation about online copyright issues are not needed, and that they simply seek payments owed under current law.

The study focused on questions regarding the legality of making and transmitting digital copies of works. The study argued that no broad changes to the "first sale" doctrine were needed, meaning consumers would not have the right to resell purchased digital music.

Supporters of expanded first sale rights say downloads should be treated like a CD or book, and a consumer should be able to resell in a similar manner. However, the Copyright Office points out that unlike a CD or book, digital transmissions results in two copies, so the sender's copy would have to be voluntarily deleted or automatically deleted through technological means. Neither option is workable, the report concludes.

The Copyright Office also recommends that Congress amend the law to let consumers create backup copies of non-infringing media. Making backup copies of digital media can be considered a fair use, but there is "a risk to copyright owners under current law that those backup copies could then be distributed without legal consequence."

The Copyright Office recommends that Congress should either amend section 109 to ensure that fair use copies will not be a part of the fair sale doctrine, or create a new archival exemption so that backup copies may not be distributed. This means that we will no longer be able to resell porn from the library on Roy Trakin’s computer at HITS—sorry, guys.

Regulators also recommended that Congress pass a law that says the Internet services shouldn't have to pay royalties for a song’s "buffer" copies—temporary digital duplicates which make streaming downloads run smooth.

"The economic value of licensed streaming is in the public performances of the musical work and the sound recording, both of which are paid for," according to the report. "The buffer copies have no independent economic significance. They are made solely to enable the performance."