Music Industry: DMCA Copyright Law is Obsolete and Harmful

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A coalition of 400 artists and various music groups including the RIAA are calling on Congress to reform existing copyright law. The DMCA is obsolete, dysfunctional and harmful, they claim, calling for stronger measures against the ongoing piracy troubles they face.

cassetteSigned into law by President Bill Clinton in 1998, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) aimed to ready copyright law for the digital age.

The law introduced a safe harbor for Internet services, meaning that they can’t be held liable for their pirating users as long as they properly process takedown notices and deal with repeat infringers.

However, in recent years copyright holders, Internet services and the public in general have signaled various shortcomings. On the one hand, rightsholders believe that the law doesn’t do enough to protect creators, while the opposing side warns of increased censorship and abuse.

To hear the growing concerns from all sides the U.S. Copyright Office launched a public consultation in order to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions.

A few hours ago a broad coalition of 400 artists and music groups, including the RIAA, Music Publishers Association and A2IM submitted their response. The 70-page brief provides a comprehensive overview of what the music industry sees as the DMCA shortcomings while calling for significant reform.

“The Music Community’s list of frustrations with the DMCA is long,” the groups write, adding that “a law that might have made sense in 1998 is now not only obsolete but actually harmful.”

The music industry’s comments focus heavily on search engines, Google in particular. In recent years music companies have sent hundreds of millions of takedown notices to Google, but despite these efforts, copyright infringing material is still topping many search results.

“The notice-and-takedown system has proved an ineffective tool for the volume of unauthorized digital music available, something akin to bailing out an ocean with a teaspoon,” they write.

“Copyright owners should not be required to engage in the endless game of sending repeat takedown notices to protect their works, simply because another or the
same infringement of the initially noticed work appears at a marginally different URL than the first time.”

The music groups are calling for advanced technologies and processes to ensure that infringing content doesn’t reappear elsewhere once it’s removed, a so-called “notice and stay down” approach.

This includes audio fingerprinting technologies, hash-matching technologies, meta-data correlations and the removal of links that point to content which has been taken down already.

“The current standard of ‘URL by URL’ takedown does not make sense in a world where there is an infinite supply of URLs,” the groups add.

Another problem with the DMCA, according to the music companies, is that the safe harbor provision also protects sites that are clearly profiting from copyright infringement.

Describing it as a “get out of jail free” card for many dubious sites, RIAA and the others demand change.

“At its worst, the DMCA safe harbors have become a business plan for profiting off of stolen content; at best, the system is a de facto government subsidy enriching some digital services at the expense of creators. This almost 20 year-old, 20th Century law should be updated,” they write.

The music industry groups note that these and other issues have turned the DMCA law into a “dysfunctional relic,” and are calling on Congress to take action and come up with a copyright law that better protects their interests.

The anti-DMCA comments submitted to the U.S. Government are the strongest we’ve seen thus far, but more responses are expected to be published after the deadline passes today.

Where most copyright holders call for stricter anti-piracy measures, many Internet services and activists are expected to focus on the increase on DMCA abuse and censorship.

Earlier this week a Google-funded report revealed that close to 30% of all DMCA requests it receives are “questionable” and the EFF previously called on the public to share their DMCA horror stories.

In addition, Fight for the Future just launched a campaign page, helping the public to inform the Copyright Office that DMCA abuses should be stopped. The campaign generated over 50,000 comments in a day, ‘crashing’ the Government’s website.


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