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Hot Copyright Issues in 2021

Copyright Issues that may Change Copyright Law as We Know It

Without a doubt, we are at the precipice of a digital and internet revolution. The year 2020 gave us a pandemic that not only changed our lives and the way we usually do things but also paved the way for the internet to transform in ways we could not have imagined.

Now it is 2021, and it seems like the surprises keep coming.

As copyright infringement lawyers and creative artists, we can try to prepare for some of the potential changes ahead, especially those that might affect our communities and clients. For people who create original work for a living, it is important to understand your ownership rights and the circumstances that allow other people to use your work. Here, we will share some exciting topics trending in Copyright law that might haves ramifications in the year ahead.

The CASE Act Becomes Law

Before 2020 ended, President Trump signed into law the CASE Act (Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement,) a law that modified US copyright laws to include a small claims court for smaller and “less significant” copyright issues.

The CASE Act essentially allows smaller artists and creators to pursue damages from a smaller, less formal, and less costly venue than US Federal Court. The CASE Act encourages smaller artists and creators to pursue copyright cases and dissuade infringers from preying on them.

But as with any new law, there are detractors and critics, and the CASE Act is no different. Some say that the systems and processes put in place by the CASE Act are useless and redundant. For example, the parties have the option to proceed with their matter in federal Court anyway. Yet, others praise it for its bold purpose.

Regardless, the CASE Act is still, in all respects, an infant law, and time will tell how it may or may not change the landscape of copyright cases in the future.

The Oracle v. Google Landmark Case

Landmark cases are rare, but Oracle v. Google might be one of them. Without a doubt, how the Court rules on this case can change many things in the digital property world.

For the unfamiliar, the case started in 2010 and involved the programming language Java, which Oracle owns. According to Oracle, Google used its programming language without undergoing the necessary procedure for obtaining permission for such use. Google, however, argues that there was no infringement. Google insists that it created the program from scratch and that any similarities are merely coincidental.

Why is this case so important? For one thing, the programming language involved in the case is an essential part of software development. What the Supreme Court decides might change the way individuals and corporations undertake the creation of software.

But, also important is the issue of fair use that was raised in the hearings. Almost all creators are familiar with the term fair use. Can the Court change our ideas of fair use practically overnight? Will its decision dampen the creation of original works? Or will it allow further exceptions to the term? Hopefully, we will get answers to these questions in the next couple of weeks.

The European Union’s (EU) Copyright Reform Laws

The US is not the only country with the power to change copyright laws. The EU has the implementation of new reforms underway.

One interesting thing to consider in these copyright reform laws is a proposal that service providers be responsible for filtering out copyright violations on their platforms and taking concrete steps concerning licensing and monitoring content. The EU is home to thousands of servers, most of which extend to the rest of the world, and this kind of arrangement will not only change how the continent accesses and views the internet but most likely the rest of the Asian continent, too. Of course, sovereignty also comes into play, and we will have to wait to see what happens after March of this year when all the EU member countries expect to implement the final reforms fully.

Can Artificial Intelligence (AI) Works Be the Subject of Copyright?

People are the source of creative and original works, yes, but what about robots with advanced artificial intelligence? Can AI “create” in every sense of the word? If so, can these creations be the subject of copyright?

According to the US Copyright Office, it will only consider registrations and applications from actual human beings. But where is the line drawn? If one creates an AI machine that can produce original works, can those works be registered by a human applicant?

It is hard to deny that AI is on the verge of becoming sentient. There are probably programs out there already that demonstrate AI’s ability to perceive and respond. AI machines can be programmed to create new and original works specifically. But, again, the question is, can these works be copyrighted?

Whichever the case, the next couple of years will probably provide us the answer. Another interesting thought to ponder is this: if AI can create original works, can that work be used as a measure of intelligence, sentience, and individuality? If so, can that qualify the AI as a human person? We will see what the answer is one day and what, if any, effect it has on copyright laws.

Copyrighted Works v. the Public Domain

Copyright protections expire. For many creative works already in existence, expiration is around the corner. When the dates expire, the pieces become part of the public domain, free for anyone to use.

Congress decided to extend the expiration date for 20 years, but the expiration date is near for many classic works. Between 1998 and 2018 no new works entered the public domain in the US.

What will happen when the copyrights on these masterpieces expire? Will there be new spinoffs? New adaptations and remakes? Commercial exploitation? Will cinema be flooded with various zombie films involving our favorite fictional characters?

It could be an exciting time for artists of all types to recycle and reuse some of these precious pieces of original work with a modern spin. The big one to look out for in the coming months is The Great Gatsby.

Contact Our Copyright Lawyers Today!

Copyright law is, without a doubt, one of the most important laws created by Congress. As technology, digitization, AI, innovation, and creativity have evolved, so too must copyright laws. We will have to see what the next few years bring and how copyright laws “catch up.”

At Sanders Law Group, LLP, our copyright infringement lawyers are dedicated to helping creative professionals collect damages when someone violates copyright law. To learn more about how we can protect your rights, call us today for a free copyright consultation.


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