This past Saturday I attended a local community forum on the Orphan Works legislation sponsored by Jim Cooper, the Congressman for Tennessee's 5th District and John Hall, a New York Congressman and singer/songwriter of The Orleans fame. Lucky for me living in Nashville means we get to be on the front row of intellectual property issues because of the music industry. Most of the people attending were songwriters or connected to the music industry but there was a scattering of visual artists in the group.
The group started by airing everyone's concerns regarding the legislation. Most everyone had the same complaints already heard about the bill; possibility of making everyone's work an orphan, flimsy language detailing what counts as a 'diligent search', financial hassle of having to re-register your work with an unknown amount of databases. For a full re-cap of problems go here. If there was anyone in the crowd supporting this bill they never spoke up. Then Cooper and Hall spoke on how they stand on the issue. Hall told an amusing anecdote about how the McCain campaign tried to use one of his most famous songs, You're Still the One, without compensation by claiming that the campaign couldn't find the author of the song. Since Congressman Hall appears as both a songwriter and performer in the song's credits and works just across the building from Senator McCain, Hall was a little surprised they couldn't find him. At any rate here was the big information we learned about what's happening with this on Capital Hill:
• Neither Cooper nor Hall support this bill. Cooper said he would "do anything he could to stop the bill."
• The bill is NOT being fast-tracked. This is a very good thing as this had been a concern that it would try to be passed by summer. Cooper said everyone is now tied up with appropriations.
• Cooper said the bigger fight on this would come next year when Congress reconvenes after the election.
• Right now no one in DC is talking about this, so clearly we need to step to the fight. There is the possibility of procedural maneuvers being used to bring the bill to a vote without debate but Cooper and Hall doubted that would happen especially since they could see that there was a groundswell of opposition to it even if its not being the hot topic on the Hill at the moment.
• Hall suggested the possibility of having a Judiciary Committee field hearing regarding the bill. He felt that in cities like Nashville where intellectual property is a significant part of our economy that the Committee could benefit from hearing the people's complaints first hand. I think this would be a good idea, and personally I'm all for getting this to happen.
• Neither Hall nor Cooper really knew what was happening in the Senate with the bill. Both said usually you can count on the Senate to not do much, however one of the bill's Senate sponsors is Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) and he tends to be a mover in the Senate. Anyone with ties to voters in Vermont needs to get on them about contacting Leahy to get off this bill.