Digitized Copyright Works (Technical Information)
On November 2, 2002, the President signed into law the “Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002” (the TEACH Act), which updates certain provisions of the Copyright Act to facilitate the growth and development of distance education, while introducing new safeguards to limit the additional risks to copyright owners that are inherent in exploiting works in a digital format.1 For information purposes only, the TEACH Act requires the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), after consultation with the Register of Copyrights, to submit a report to Congress on technological protection systems to protect digitized copyrighted works and to prevent infringement, including those being developed in private, voluntary, industryled entities through an open broad-based consensus process.
Over the last several years, the educational opportunities and risks associated with distance education have been the subject of extensive public debate and attention in the United States. In November 1998, the Conference on Fair Use (CONFU), convened by the Administration’s Information Infrastructure Task Force, issued its final report, which included a proposal for educational fair use guidelines for distance learning.2 Following the enactment of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA),3 the Copyright Office was tasked with preparing a study of the complex issues invo lved in distance education and to make recommendations to Congress for any legislative changes. In May 1999, the Copyright Office issued an extensive report on copyright and digital distance education. 4 After hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee (March 13, 2001) and before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property (June 27, 2001), Congress passed the TEACH Act as part of the “21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act.”
Overview of the TEACH Act
Subsection (b) of the TEACH Act amends section 110(2) of the Copyright Act to allow for the inclusion of performances and displays of copyrighted works in digital distance education under appropriate circumstances and subject to certain limitations. The Act expands the categories of works exempt from the performance right in section 106(4) of the Copyright Act, from nondramatic literary works and musical works to “reasonable and limited portions” of any work and permits the display of any work in “an amount comparable to that typically displayed in the course of a live classroom setting.” The Act removes the concept of the physical classroom, while maintaining the requirement of “mediated instructional activity,” which generally requires the involvement of an instructor. The exemption is limited to mediated instructional activities that are conducted by governmental bodies and “accredited” non-profit educational institutions. Subsection (c) of the TEACH Act amends section 112 of the Copyright Act to permit transmitting organizations to store copyrighted material on their servers in order to allow the performances and displays of works authorized under amended section 110(2).
The TEACH Act contains a number of new safeguards to limit the additional risks to copyright owners that are inherent in using works in the digital format. The Act limits the receipt of authorized transmissions to students officially enrolled in the course or to Government employees as part of their official duties “to the extent technologically feasible.” With respect to “digital transmissions,” transmitting institutions must apply technological measures that reasonably prevent “retention of the work in accessible form by recipients of the transmission … for longer than the class session” and “unauthorized further dissemination of the work in accessible form by such recipients to others.” The statute also prohibits transmitting institutions from engaging in “conduct that could reasonably be expected to interfere” with technological measures used by copyright owners to regulate the retention and further unauthorized dissemination of protected works.
The USPTO Report
Subsection (d) of the TEACH Act requires the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, after consultation with the Register of Copyrights, and after a period for public comment, to submit to the Committees on the Judiciary of the Senate and the House of Representatives a report on technological protection systems to protect digitized copyrighted works, including those being developed in private voluntary industry-led entities through an open broad-based consensus process. The report, which is intended solely to provide information to Congress, is due not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of the Act.
Congress specifically directed the USPTO to include information “on technological protection systems that have been implemented, are available for implementation, or are proposed to be developed to protect digitized copyrighted works 3 and prevent infringement, including upgradeable and self-repairing systems, and systems that have been developed, are being developed, or are proposed to be developed in private voluntary industry-led entities through an open broad based consensus process.” Congress also directed the USPTO to exclude “any recommendations, comparisons, or comparative assessments of any commercially available products that may be mentioned in the report.”
Subsection (d) of the Act further states that the report “shall not be construed to affect in any way, either directly or by implication, any provision” of the Copyright Act in general or the TEACH Act in particular, including the requirement of transmitting institutions to apply certain technologic al controls and not to engage in conduct that could be reasonably expected to interfere with technological measures used by copyright owners (discussed more fully above), or “the interpretation or application of such provisions, including evaluation of the compliance with that clause by any governmental body or nonprofit educational institution.”
Finally, the legislative history of the TEACH Act sheds some light on the purpose, benefits and possible limitations of the USPTO report. Some lawmakers noted that a report on technological protection systems would “only provide a snapshot in time,” while others noted that such a report would be “out of date by the time it is finished due to continual advances in technology.” In preparing this study, USPTO became well aware of these inherent difficulties. Nonetheless, Congress also noted that such a study could be “useful in establishing a baseline of knowledge for the Committee and our constituents with regard to what technology is or could be made available and how it is or could be implemented.” In that spirit, this report is respectfully submitted to Congress.
Public Comments and Public Hearing
Under the TEACH Act mandate, and to assist in the preparation of the report, on December 4, 2002, USPTO solicited written comments from interested parties and scheduled a public hearing on February 4, 2003. Written comments were due January 14, 2003. In particular, USPTO requested information in response to the following questions:
- What technological protection systems have been implemented, are available for implementation, or are proposed to be developed to protect digitized copyrighted works and prevent infringement, including any upgradeable and self-repairing systems?
- What systems have been developed, are being developed, or are proposed to be developed in private voluntary industry-led entities through an open broadbased consensus process?
- Consistent with the types of information requested by Congress, please provide any additional comments on technological protection systems to protect digitized copyrighted works and prevent infringement.
In response to these questions, USPTO received written comments from the following organizations: Infraworks Corporation; Blue Spike, Inc; Macrovision Corporation; OverDrive, Inc.; ContentGuard; Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.; NDS Americas, Inc.; 4C Entity, LLC; Protexis, Inc.; Association of American Universities; The Walt Disney Company; Digimarc; Motion Picture Association of America, Inc.; Software & Information Industry Association; Digital Transmission Licensing Administrator, LLC; and Information Technology Industry Council. Copies of the public comments are available on the USPTO web site.
On February 4, 2003, USPTO conducted a public hearing to assist in the preparation of the TEACH Report. The following persons testified: Mr. William Krepick, President and Chief Executive Officer, Macrovision Corporation; Mr. Steven Potash, Chief Executive Officer, OverDrive, Inc.; Mr. Michael Miron, Chief Executive Officer, ContentGuard; Mr. Troy Dow, Vice President & Counsel, Technology & New Media, Motion Picture Association of America, Inc.; Mr. Bruce Funkhouser, Vice President of International and Business Operations, Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.; and Mr. Mark Bohannon, General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Government Affairs, Software & Information Industry Association. A transcript of the hearing is available on the USPTO web site.