Earlier this week, Republican Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill that aims to shorten the copyright term to a maximum 56 years.
The controversial proposal is a direct attack on Disney, which previously spoke out against the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida.
The chances of this bill passing are rather slim. The Democrats currently have a majority in the Senate and it’s unclear whether the proposal is broadly supported by Hawley’s Republican colleagues. On top of that, a 56-year copyright term is at odds with the Berne Convention.
Many people believe that the proposal is mostly a political stunt, one that made headlines all over the world. A few hours ago it also reached the Twitter feed of Elon Musk, the richest person on earth, who doesn’t shy away from controversy himself.
Musk’s Copyright & DMCA Critique
Responding to a Slashdot headline, Musk backs the general idea of limiting the current protections, which can last up to 120 years after the creation of a work.
“Current copyright law in general goes absurdly far beyond protecting the original creator,” Musk notes.
This type of critique on the copyright protection term isn’t new and Musk is known for floating bold statements. That said, coming from someone of his stature, it’s worth noting. The same is true for the follow-up tweet.
“Overzealous DMCA is a plague on humanity,” Musk wrote in a follow-up.
The DMCA has nothing to do with the copyright term. Instead, it largely dictates how online services should respond to copyright takedown notices. Platforms that stick to these rules will get “safe harbor” protections that shield them from liability.
U.S. lawmakers are currently considering updating the DMCA, potentially making the rules more strict. This includes a proposal to make it mandatory for online services to implement standard technical protection measures.
It’s not clear at all what Musk means by “overzealous” and how the DMCA is a “plague on humanity.” However, Musk might believe that the current law is already leading to overbroad removals.
Twitter & the DMCA
Just how serious Musk is about these comments is unknown. That said, now that he considers taking over Twitter as a business, the DMCA is certainly very relevant for him. And with the power and influence he has, copyright holders could get a little concerned.
Through DMCA notices, rightsholders have asked Twitter to remove millions of tweets and files from its platform in recent years. The company has to comply with the law and Musk can’t change that. However, he can rally against plans to make the DMCA more strict.
For now, this is all speculation and we don’t even know whether Musk is serious about this critique. Just shortly after calling out the DMCA as a plague on humanity, he moved on to condemning paper straws.
Update: Musk’s Twitter takeover plans are not “on hold”.