Scalia Spotlights

Terrica Carrington ‘16: VP of Legal and Policy and Copyright Counsel at the Copyright Alliance

Terrica Carrington
Terrica Carrington

Antonin Scalia Law School’s Arts and Entertainment Advocacy Clinic helped Terrica Carrington, ’16, jump-start a career protecting the rights of artists and creators. The clinic, which Carrington enrolled in during her final semester of law school, equips students with the legal and policy skills necessary to advocate on behalf of copyright holders and allows them to develop essential knowledge in copyright law. Carrington says that her experience in the clinic greatly influenced her career trajectory. “The clinic was such a big part of my legal education.” says Carrington. “And it’s really helped to shape my career and my understanding of the law to a higher degree.” Since 2018, she has served as an adjunct professor at the clinic, overseeing student work and assisting with the counseling of clients as a Supervising Attorney. “It feels great to be able to give back to the students,” says Carrington. “Not only as an instructor but also as a mentor.”

Enrolling in the clinic during her time at GMU enabled Carrington to turn her appreciation for art into a career. She now serves as VP of Legal and Policy and Copyright Counsel at the Copyright Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to advocating for policies that protect the rights of creators. The Alliance is a membership organization, representing the interests of not only corporate and organizational members but also of individual creators. They provide educational programming to help individuals learn how to protect and enforce their rights, and promote legislation that is beneficial to creators. In pursuit of the latter, Carrington appeared before the House Committee on the Judiciary on September 30th. At the hearing on “Copyright and the Internet in 2020”, the subject of her testimony was the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a 1998 law that sought to establish a balance of interests and responsibilities between creators and online service providers, and to promote the growth of online networks while protecting intellectual property. With the rapid and radical changes the internet has undergone in the decades since, many, including Carrington, believe the statute no longer offers adequate protections and procedures to copyright holders. “One of the greatest threats to the welfare of the creative community is piracy,” said Carrington in her written testimony. “Piracy is a persistent and evolving problem for virtually all types of copyrighted works and copyright owners and undermines the rights of creators and the value of copyright”

At the center of the DMCA is Section 512, which outlines notice and takedown procedures, a system by which creators can send notices of infringement to an online service provider (OSP) and request the unauthorized content be removed. Compliance with the notice then limits the liability of OSPs. Yet within the modern digital landscape, it is impossible for creators to dedicate their valuable time or resources to searching for unauthorized works and filing takedown notices for these infringements. “While Online Service Providers, or OSPs, are routinely shielded from liability under the DMCA, the problem of online piracy has grown enormously, leaving copyright owners to shoulder the burden alone,” stated Carrington in her testimony. She compares monitoring the online marketplace for infringements to a game of whack-a-mole.

“We need to step in and do something and make sure that this law is actually reflective of what's going on in the marketplace,” says Carrington. The existing system has failed to account for changes to how and where content is consumed, and thus fails creators. The path forward, she believes, is to reestablish the balance initially sought by Congress, through a combination of legislation, technological advancement, and private sector voluntary measures. “I see it as a puzzle,” she says. “And they each play a unique but really important role.” Over the past three years, Carrington has been working on the Copyright Alternative and Small Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, a bill that will provide creators who can’t afford expensive legal fees with other options to enforce and uphold their rights. Federal court, the only place where one can bring a copyright infringement case, generally costs plaintiffs hundreds of thousands of dollars. The CASE Act attempts to create a small claims system that takes into account the potentially limited resources of creators and provides a tribunal for lower cost damages, rather than major corporate litigation. “Creatives just don't really have a lot of options, even within the DMCA,” says Carrington.

Carrington greatly enjoys sharing her expertise, particularly with current and former Scalia Law School students considering opportunities in copyright law. The rights she has dedicated her career to defending, says Carrington, are universally important. “I think everyone should care to make sure that creators have the resources to be able to protect those works,” she says. “We’re all consumers and appreciators of various forms of art and entertainment. Copyright helps to support the people that bring those works to life, who enrich our lives with those works, and it helps them be able to continue to create.”