An open letter to my Senators and Representative.

This is an open letter to my representation in Washington.  My hope is that with your comments and input we, as a community, can improve this open letter and then we can all send it to our various representatives.  I believe this issue is important enough to be worthy of their attention.  Hopefully, with your help, some of the larger blogs will recognize this problem and join in the fight.

Honorable Senator Jeff Sessions
Honorable Senator Richard Shelby
Honorable Representative Mo Brooks

Dear Sirs,

I bring to you today an important loophole in current copyright.  The Copyright Office, on their website, has already recognized that technology and creation of content has already started to outstrip the advancements afforded copyright holders under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  In 1998, when the DMCA passed, blogs were not as serious an activity as they are today.  Since WordPress was introduced in 2004, blogs have exploded onto the Internet, yet the vast majority of blogs do not enjoy the benefits of Copyright Registration due to the overwhelming burden and cost to individually register the copyright of each post.  Even electronically, registering each post as it is written is costly and time consuming, to the point that the vast majority of blogs can not afford to register their copyright.  Without a registered copyright, a blogger has little options under the Copyright Laws to enforce their rights to their own work.

The Copyright Office has decided that under the current law, blogs can not even enjoy the expensive but timely recurring publication copyright registration afforded newspaper, television and radio.  As a result, bloggers are offered less than ideal means of registering their copyright.  Bloggers are left with either not registering at all, and hoping to get an injunction against others who infringe their works, forgoing the copyright statutory penalties, or using a substandard method of registering that offers them less protection for individual blog articles.  The most typical method of registering is to file a registration for the entire blog every three months, at $55 a quarter.  That’s $220 a year, and when most blogs are already a money losing hobby, that isn’t very feasible.  Besides, registering the complete blog provides less protection for an individual post being stolen and used without permission.

Additionally, since blogs are timely, the value of most blog posts are measured in days, if not hours.  Since it currently takes months to obtain a registration if you are not a recurring publication, that means by the time a blogger has possession of registration, it may be six months after the post was written and several months after the infringement, which has already hurt the blogger.  Furthermore, it is impossible to obtain registration inside the window of the DMCA timeline for takedown notices.

Bloggers deserve the full protection of the power of Copyright Registration.  With modern technology, there is a simple solution to the situation.  Develop a recurring copyright method, similar but less costly than the system afforded to the newspapers, television and radio world.  This could be done at very little expense to the taxpayers.  The Copyright Office could develop a portal that would allow bloggers to register with the portal for an annual fee of $100.  Bloggers would then be able to register with the portal their existing blog, in total, as a compilation work.  Bloggers would then be required to enter the URL of new posts in a timely (perhaps monthly) manner.  Once the blog is established on the portal, each new post would be given proper copyright registration for individual post written after initially joining the portal.

The beauty of the portal system is that other than maintaining and backing up the system, the Copyright Office would need to do nothing more.  Instead of issuing certificates for each new post, the portal would be the de facto proof of registration.  The only time the Copyright Office would need to do anything at all would be in the case when a post is infringed, at which point the copyright holder could be charged with a $25 fee for having the Copyright Office provide authenticated proof of the time of the registration in the portal.  Even that could be automated, so that an official notice was sent via email or mail to the court in which the case is filed.

This simple method would greatly increase the protection of copyright to the millions of bloggers already writing without the significant benefits of Copyright Registration.  The $100 fee is not onerous, and could potentially see a significant windfall to the Copyright Office.  Of the millions of blogs in existence, if only the top 10% of bloggers registered, that could be over a million dollars a year flowing into the Copyright Office for almost no additional work.

Please help bring copyright registration to the blogosphere, and help end the rampant intellectual property theft occurring every day online.

Thank you for your consideration on this matter.

Your Constituent,

Michael Malone

 

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2 thoughts on “An open letter to my Senators and Representative.

  1. Hi, Mike. I wasn’t clear on reading your post, but that’s probably my bad. Is this some new decision of the US Copyright Office? As you may or may not know, Hoge has submitted applications to the Copyright Office on a monthly basis to cover the posts he is suing me over, April, May and June. The judge had a bit of a problem with that, but that’s another story.

    The only people I see getting rich off of this whole idea of bloggers suing other bloggers for use of bits of their material are the lawyers. Maybe I’m naive, but I personally believe the DMCA Takedown system works just fine (most of the time) and I reject the idea of going through the expense of filing with the US Copyright Office each month just to keep people from stealing my material.

    Of course, you and I both know that Hoge is not suffering any harm because I use portions of his blog. It’s my only way to respond to the lies told about me on his blog as I am not allowed to comment there, even after the expiration of his Peace Order. He moderates comments, but only in the same way that Rush Limbaugh screens callers.

    Anyhoo…

    Technology is certainly outpacing the law, and something needs to be done one way or another to bring juris prudence up to snuff with Life 2.0.

    Be well.

    • Bill, this isn’t about you. I know that may be hard to believe, but it just isn’t. I had a photograph I, thankfully, had copyrighted stolen from this blog and used in a newspaper article. I managed to get the issue settled quickly and with a nice apology in the paper and a check, but that’s not the point. Had they stolen my words, I would have had a harder time making them play ball.

      Every blogger deserves the right to a registered copyright, but the copyright office does not accept that bloggers are periodical publishers, even blogs with a religious schedule. So they have to do one of two things, register monthly or every three months. Both get expensive quickly, and don’t provide bloggers with universal access to the courts in a timely manner.

      Without the threat of the statutory compensation, a cease and desist order just doesn’t have much teeth. Without the registration of a specific blog post, the fair use argument swings in favor of the offender, since the amount they took compared with the month or three months worth of copyrighted compilation material is smaller. Blogs should have the same ability to register copyright that “mainstream” media has. My freedom of speech, and freedom to protect my speech is no less important than theirs.

      And no, it is not some new decision from the Copyright Office. They have never allowed a purely online publication to utilize the periodical copyright procedures, leaving bloggers to either register for a compilation of their blog, or pay to register each individual post. Or forgo registration altogether and simply rely on inductive relief. It really is an unfair situation for bloggers to be in.

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