A New Civil War in the US Over State Bills on Copyright

A new civil war has erupted in America setting the creative community against those states seeking to pass “a series of unconstitutional state bills that would artificially depress the value of literary works and the contracts that govern intellectual property licenses”.

Authors, publishers and other bodies associated with creative content have joined forces with the Association of American Publishers to launch the Protect the Creative Community Coalition to tackle what it calls “efforts designed to weaken intellectual property protections and damage digital markets”.

The Coalition says: “Putting aside the chaos of enforcing state-specific rules within a far-reaching, global IP framework, the bills directly conflict with the federal Copyright Act, including the responsibilities of federal lawmakers to determine the nation’s IP laws.”

It continued: “Inexplicably, proponents continue to push their bills after a similar effort in Maryland was declared unconstitutional by a federal court in 2022. Bills in both New York and Virginia were also rejected, although not without ongoing, illogical and reckless claims by the proponents. In an especially ludicrous example in Connecticut, a proponent equated the Nation’s literary works with ‘floor wax and road salt”.

Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild said: “These bills are unconstitutional and for good reason. They target the federal copyright system that authors depend on to earning a living and they’re doing this at a time when the writing profession is already facing existential threats.

“Writers’ incomes have become precariously low, forcing talented writers to leave the profession; as a culture, we lose their books and their important insights. By forcing pricing limits and other restrictions on not just publishers but thousands of self-published authors, the bills exhibit total disregard of the reality that authors in the commercial marketplace have to earn enough money to stay in the profession. The Authors Guild is fully committed to libraries having access to all books and in all formats to meet their communities’ needs. We regularly lobby for increases in library funding. It is unfair to put the cost of libraries’ needs on authors.”

Maria Pallante, president and CEO of the AAP, added: “The problem is not theoretical. The state bills would subject authors and publishing houses of all sizes to serious liabilities and financial penalties for exercising the very rights that the Copyright Act so clearly affords them—the definition of a constitutional conflict. Moreover, they would forge a concerning precedent for downstream appropriation of IP investments by actors well beyond the states, especially as to already precarious digital copies. We stand by our time-tested copyright system, and we are deeply dubious of assertions that devaluing the nation’s creative output is in the public interest.”