This is the second post in a three-part series outlining how the new leadership in Congress and the White House can restore some of the civil liberties we've lost over the past eight years. Today's post focuses on innovation, fair use and intellectual property. On Friday, we posted about privacy and surveillance, and tomorrow we'll discuss government transparency.

Today's intellectual property (IP) laws frequently fail to strike the proper balance between the rights of creators, copyright holders and the public. Powerful companies interested in maximizing their investments in intellectual property have run roughshod over the people's fair use rights. This has been especially problematic given the explosion of user generated content sites like YouTube, which celebrate creativity and innovation and actively encourage a remix culture. It is our hope that our government leaders will work to bring balance to the law. Here are some suggestions to get things started:

  1. Repair the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Eliminate the ability of copyright holders to get statutory damages for noncommercial violations of copyright laws. Require proof of actual damages prior to any award based on copyright liability. Raise the requirements for content owners to receive preliminary injunctions against technologies in copyright cases. Congress should pass the FAIR USE Act and the Orphan Works Act.

  2. Reform the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), emphasizing its role to promote, rather than impede, innovation. Patents, by constitutional design, are supposed to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts." All too often today, patents are used to hold innovation hostage. Patent office procedures should be reviewed to ensure that patent examiners are being given the tools and incentives they need to challenge overbroad patent applications. Simultaneously, avenues for post-grant administrative review procedures should be broadened, ensuring that public interest groups can continue to raise post-grant challenges without restrictive time limitations on their participation.

  3. Don't let the content industry use our government resources to pressure universities and others to participate in their intimidating peer-to-peer dragnet operations.

  4. Show caution before regulating the use of technologies that limit consumer choice or consumer rights. In the United States and abroad, our government should advocate for policies that promote the ability of consumers to use technology they purchase however they choose.