The last of 20 Congressional hearings on copyright occurred yesterday in Washington D.C., as lawmakers closed out a review process that dates back more than two years. Following numerous hearings involving panelists from across the creative sector and organizations that support it, this final session heard from just one witness, Register of Copyrights Maria A. Pallante.

It’s fitting that Pallante was the speaker at this closing session, as it was she who set the wheels in motion to begin this long-term review of U.S. copyright law in 2013.

English: "Maria A. Pallante, senior advis...

Maria A. Pallante, Register of Copyrights.(http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2010/10-272.html) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On March 20th of that year, Register Pallante aired her opinion to Congress that the coming years should see a “comprehensive and informed approach to copyright review.” 

The following month, Chairman Bob Goodlatte of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee confirmed that this review would be conducted, taking in a full series of panel hearings that eventually covered everything from fair use and licensing to the role of innovation in the nation’s economy.

It would be fair to say that the many panelists who have spoken as we’ve monitored these individual hearings have been representative of most stakeholders in the realm of intellectual property rights. Copyright affects great swathes of American ingenuity and requires this extensive consideration to take into account all of their views on how any changes to the law affect individual interests. This was a point underlined by Register Pallante in the final hearing, summing up that the review considered the many “competing equities that make up the public interest in the digital age.”

That final point brings us back to exactly why this latest review is not only desired, but required, as digital channels overtake traditional outlets for American creativity and engineering. The marketplace and consumption has changed beyond recognition in the last 15 to 20 years and, while legislation like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) sounds like it should address such technological advances, it has in reality become increasingly outdated.

Technology is far, far beyond what was available and anticipated when the DMCA was passed in 1998, and those who exploit digital channels for copyright infringement have adapted much quicker than the laws intended to enforce it and protect creators. The extensive review over the past two years sets a firm foundation for Congress to comprehend the challenges facing America’s creators in 2015, understand how copyright law needs to be modified, and craft appropriate legislation to keep pace or perhaps even get out in front of new technologies. As we examined last week, 3D printing is one such emergent technology for which the importance of strong intellectual property laws and enforcement cannot be underestimated.

From here, we can expect to see an evolution of copyright law that not only accepts technology, but embraces it. Innovation has driven ahead of rights holders in recent years and is often used to beat up on anyone who calls for stronger protection of intellectual property. It need not be this way, however, and the increasing ability of algorithms to distinguish between legitimate and unlicensed use of content is just one example of technology’s ability to protect and fund the country’s creative sector, rather than siphon away from it.

With the help of key technology partners and strong backing from any new legislation that comes from this latest copyright review, creativity and innovation can get back on the same page to craft U.S. copyright laws fit for the digital era.