Copyright owners call for overhaul of DMCA takedown notices

Infringers shouldn't be able to repost files again and again to the same website, musicians tell lawmakers

By , IDG News Service |  IT Management

The U.S. Congress needs to overhaul the take-down notice provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to make it easier for copyright holders to police infringing uploads of their intellectual property, some advocates told lawmakers.

Copyright holders shouldn't have to go back to a website and ask for repeat take-downs of the same file again and again, musician Maria Schneider told a House of Representatives subcommittee Thursday. The DMCA provision giving websites legal protections for the content users post puts too much of the burden for finding infringing uploads on copyright holders and not on operators of websites and services like YouTube, she said.

"My livelihood is threatened by illegal distribution of my work, and I cannot rein it in," Schneider told the intellectual property subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. "The DMCA creates an upside-down world in which people can illegally upload my work in a matter of seconds, but I must spend countless hours trying to take it down, mostly unsuccessfully."

Schneider called for websites to implement filtering technologies that would stop infringers from reposting a file after a site has taken it down.

Congress should encourage website and services to enter into new agreements to fix the problem of "relentless reposting" of infringing files, added Sean O'Connor, a musician and law professor at the University of Washington. If an agreement can't be reached, Congress should require websites to remove reposted files or lose their protections from copyright lawsuits, he said.

The current take-down and lawsuit protection provisions of the DMCA foster a "culture of contempt" for copyright, because they discourage websites from monitoring infringement, he added. The millions of take-down notices filed each month are "clearly unsustainable," he said.

Thursday's hearing was one of several the Judiciary Committee has hosted as lawmakers consider whether to revamp the DMCA. Lawmakers are in the early stages of considering changes to the law.

While some witnesses encouraged the committee to give websites more obligations for policing infringing content, others said the takedown and lawsuit protection provisions in the law have generally worked well.

Some lawmakers, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, also called for Congress to deal with abusive take-down notices filed by copyright holders and, in some cases, by people who don't legitimately own copyrights. While bogus take-down notices aren't a huge problem, Congress "should consider ways to reduce such blatant abuse," he said.

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