Congress enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) nearly two decades ago, aiming to provide a balance between the needs of content creators, who were struggling to protect their intellectual property in the digital age, and fledgling Internet companies, who feared being held liable for the misdeeds of their customers, giving the technology companies the benefit of ‘safe harbour’ protection provided service providers “reasonably implement” a policy that provides for the termination of “repeat infringers” in “appropriate circumstances.”
But is that balance right?
Singer, songwriter and producer T Bone Burnett has delivered a telling contribution to the US Copyright Office’s review of Digital Millennium Act ‘safe harbour’ provisions in the USA, saying in a video that whilst the law that was supposed to “balance the internet’s openness with creators’ ability to earn a living wage from their work ….. [T]hose safe harbours have failed”.
“The problems are familiar”, he adds. “[And] they are well described in the record of these proceedings, from the broken Sisyphus climb of ‘notice and takedown’ to the gunpoint negotiations and pittance wages forced upon creators by the Google monopoly. The Big Tech ITOPIANS can track us across dozens of networks, devices and profiles to bombard us with micro-targeted ads, but they can’t even identify unauthorised copies of our work and keep them off their own servers and systems. Or they won’t”.
“The problem here isn’t technology”, T Bone adds, saying “Creators welcome the digital revolution and its power to connect, amplify, and inspire. A modern recording studio looks more like a cockpit than a honky tonk, and that’s just fine. The problem is business models – designed to scrape away value rather than fuel new creation, focused on taking rather than making. To restore technology’s place as the rightful partner of tomorrow’s creators, we need change”.
“The safe harbours must be restored – so only responsible actors earn their protection, not those who actively profit from the abuse and exploitation of creators’ work. Technology must be enlisted to make the system work better, not to roadblock progress in a pointless arms race of whack a mole and digital deception. Creators must be given meaningful tools to earn a living from their art”.
“The false prophets of the internet may have imagined an egalitarian open source creative wonderland – but what we got was a digital playground for a handful of mega corporations and web moguls living fat off the artistic, cultural and economic value everyone else creates online”.
“It’s time for Congress to close the loopholes in section 512 of the DMCA. Our culture is at stake. And it’s time for musicians to join with us, the Content Creators Coalition, to make that happen. Your career depends on it. On behalf of music creators, thank you to the Copyright Office for this proceeding and for considering these views”.
On the same matter, the recent decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the MP3tunes case is of interest: the Second Circuit noted that copyright infringement is a strict liability offence with no requirement to prove unlawful intent. Moreover, both uploading and downloading can constitute infringement. Because the DMCA does not define “repeat infringer,” the court adopted this ordinary meaning and held that “all it [takes] to be a ‘repeat infringer’ [is] to repeatedly [upload or download] copyrighted material for personal use.”
The Second Circuit also found that MP3tunes’ repeat infringer policy was not reasonable as a matter of law because, whilst the site did respond to takedown notices from copyright owners and terminated the accounts of some users, “MP3tunes did not even try to connect known infringing activity of which it became aware through takedown notices to users who repeatedly sideloaded files and created links to that infringing content in the sideload.com index.”
http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/7694396/t-bone-burnett-scathing-message-copyright-office-urging-reform and http://www.mondaq.com/unitedstates/x/569116/Copyright/Second+Circuit+Clarifies+Repeat+Infringer+Policy+Requirement+for+DMCA+Copyright+Safe+Harbors
And see the EFF’s pro safe harbour article here https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/02/eff-copyright-office-safe-harbors-work