It’s Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley, Again, as new U.S. Copyright Office Report Acknowledges Content Abuses

The U.S. Copyright Office yesterday released a report acknowledging content holders’ ineffectiveness getting online distribution platforms to remove copyrighted material that users post without permission.

The 250-page report, five years in the making, is likely to inspire a bloody battle in the decades long war over copyright infringement between tech platforms that distribute content, like Facebook and Google, and the entertainment industry (music publishers, creators, media companies and film studios) that create it.

Owners of music and movie libraries say piracy remains rampant online, reports Axios, and the entertainment lobby, which has long pushed tech platforms to do more to police infringing material, now sees an opening to win concessions.

  • The report concludes that there is an imbalance between online companies and rights-holders. It outlines areas for updates, including criteria for determining who gets to be immune from liability and policies intended to deter repeat offenders.
  • 1998’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which provides liability protection for online companies whose users illegally upload copyrighted material if the online companies take it down when they are notified by the rights-holder. The content providers allege this has not been effective.

A coalition of content providers led by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Music Artists Coalition have outlined three key points to address weaknesses in the illegal copyright use take-down system identified in the report.

  • Help cracking down on stream ripping. “Stream rippers” are tools that pull the audio from content like music videos on YouTube and make the songs available for internet users to download.
  • Better monitoring for infringements. Social media platforms like Twitter should provide tools to allow copyright holders to monitor for infringement and use an automated takedown system. YouTube already offers a similar service.
  • Reducing repeat notices. Rights-holders complain of playing “whack-a-mole,” in which their work reappears constantly despite successful takedown notices.

Online Platform Position

The DMCA creates a safe harbor for platforms that participate in the notice-takedown-counter-notice system and other requirements. Platforms must quickly remove allegedly infringing materials upon proper notice. But users can have them restored in 10 to 14 days if they file a counter-notice saying they don’t infringe.

Some tech companies and public interest groups allege that the current take-down system has been abused with improper takedown requests, and that changes made to protect copyright could lead to censorship or other abuse,

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