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Head of U.S. Copyright Office Delivers Columbia Law School's Horace S. Manges Lecture

Maria Pallante Says 'The Next Great Copyright Act' Must Address Technology, Authors' Rights

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Hon. Maria Pallante

New York, March 26, 2013—The country needs a new copyright act that embraces the expansion of technology and reforms ownership rights in terms authors can understand, the Hon. Maria Pallante, Register of the United States Copyright Office, said recently in her keynote address at Columbia Law School’s 26th annual Horace S. Manges Lecture.

“If one needs an army of lawyers to understand the basic precepts of the law, then it is time for a new law” Pallante said.
 
More than a hundred students, faculty, and professionals attended the March 4th lecture to hear Pallante describe what she called “The Next Great Copyright Act.” Any new legislation must clarify existing areas of the law like orphan works and statutory licenses, and address new areas like the mass digitization of copyrighted material, Pallante said.
 
The last intense policy period in copyright law occurred in the mid-90s with the passage of the Copyright Term Extension Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which, among other things, extended copyrights and criminalized technology that circumvents copyright controls, respectively.
 
But as technology continues to evolve, Pallante said it is time to revisit those laws and analyze their effects.
 
Congress’ paramount obligation is to the author, she said, adding that any new copyright act should allow writers meaningful—although not absolute—control and exploitation opportunities for their creative work. A law that does not provide for authors would not be in line with America’s core values of promoting and reimbursing creative expression, Pallante said.
 
 Pallante was introduced by Professor Jane C. Ginsburg. co-director of the Kernochan Center
“I would like to encourage Congress not only to think about copyright law but to think big,” she said. “The next great copyright act is as exciting as it is possible. Most importantly, it is a matter of public interest.”
 
The Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts’ Horace S. Manges Lecture was established in 1986 by Weil, Gotshal & Manges in memory of their late partner Horace S. Manges, who spent his career as a trial lawyer and counsel to leading writers and publishers and to the Association of American Publishers. Later in life, he helped found the Copyright Society of the U.S.A.
 
The lecture is given each year by a lawyer who is influential in the field of intellectual property. Pallante was appointed head of the Copyright Office in 2011. She previously served as intellectual property counsel to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, as executive director for the National Writers Union, and as assistant director to the Authors Guild, Inc.

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