‘US Government Should Protect the Public from Copyright Extremes’

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The Re:Create Coalition has sent a letter to the new US Congress, warning lawmakers that heavy-handed copyright policies can do more harm than good. The group wants to keep current DMCA safe harbors in place but encourages penalties for abusive and fraudulent takedown notices. In addition, copyright law should be amended to prevent Internet disconnections based on one-sided piracy accusations.

re:create logoChanges in power often present opportunities, including in the US where a new President and Congress were recently sworn in.

Last week, we reported how a pro-copyright coalition took this opportunity to ask President Biden for help in their battle against online piracy.

The copyright holders were particularly critical of big tech companies such as Google and Facebook, accusing them of hiding behind the DMCA’s safe harbor. That should stop, they argued, calling for stricter copyright policies.

Re:Create Wants a Balanced Copyright Law

Not everyone agrees with this stance. In fact, the Re:Create Coalition, which includes members such as the Consumer Technology Association, the American Library Association, the CCIA, and EFF, is in favor of more ‘balanced’ copyright policies.

The coalition sent a letter to the 117th Congress last week, warning that copyright laws and regulations have a downside too. When they go too far, it can harm creativity and stifle free speech.

“Attempts to increase the protections provided by U.S. copyright law may serve an important purpose, but in doing so we must remain mindful that a heavy-handed approach will only stifle free speech, creativity and the economy writ large,” Re:Create writes.

“The U.S. government should seek the appropriate balance in copyright law to unlock the full potential of all people’s innovative and creative spirit,” the group adds.

Unlike many copyright industry groups, Re:Create believes that the DMCA is already balanced and working properly. The notice-and-takedown system is seen as an international standard that protects online services while allowing copyright holders to protect their content.

Protecting the Public by Punishing Abuse

However, the coalition sees some developments of concern. For example, companies such as YouTube allow rightsholders to de-monetize or block content that could be fair use. This stifles free speech.

To prevent these types of ‘abuse’ it should be easier to contest these takedown requests. In addition, there should be penalties for people and companies that abuse the takedown process.

“We recommend that the DMCA’s notice and takedown regime largely be left alone, although there is a need to strengthen the penalties for abusive and fraudulent notices, and to make it easier to file counter-notices on non-infringing content,” Re:Create writes.

The letter also highlights another DMCA-related concern. In recent years several Internet providers have been sued because they failed to terminate “repeat infringers.” As a result, ISPs have implemented stricter termination policies.

Disconnecting Internet Users Isn’t Right

This is a problem, Re:Create warns, as Internet access is a fundamental part of people’s lives. Cutting Internet access to entire households simply based on copyright infringement accusations goes too far.

“Internet access is a necessity in today’s society – being cut off from the internet could mean losing a job or not being able to participate in school fully,” Re:Create writes.

“Just because one household member has had multiple allegations of copyright infringement against them, the whole household should not lose internet access. Copyright law should be amended to ensure that no one loses access to the internet based on allegations of copyright infringement.”

The letter highlights several other issues that Congress may want to reconsider as well. These include broadening DMCA exceptions that allow people to break DRM. In addition, Re:Create warns that the newly adopted Small Claims Act should become ‘opt-in’, instead of ‘opt-out’.

Progress Without Restrictions

All in all, the letter reminds Congress that copyright law isn’t about restrictions. It was originally implemented to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.” This means that fewer restrictions can actually prove beneficial.

“Copyright law, by its very nature, needs to focus on how to best allow this progress to occur. Restrictive rules that strengthen gatekeepers to the creative world and prevent new and different types of creativity go against this Constitutional purpose,” the coalition writes.

A copy of the letter Re:Create sent to the 117th US Congress is available here (pdf)


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