February 22, 2017:US music industry bodies renew attack on ‘broken’ DMCA

Industry bodies including the RIAA, NMPA and SoundExchange have renewed their criticism of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the safe-harbour protection it provides for digital services like YouTube.

15 organisations have come together to file comments to the US Copyright Office criticising the legislation as “broken and antiquated”, in a new round of lobbying as part of a long-running review of the DMCA.

The comments may be new, but the arguments are familiar to anyone who’s been following the safe-harbour rows on either side of the Atlantic.

“The DMCA safe harbours suffer from numerous key failings that have resulted in a heavily skewed playing field where service providers can either comply with their minimal safe harbour obligations – and thereby obtain immunity from damages liability and avoid obtaining licenses from rightsholders – or use the safe harbours strategically in licensing negotiations with rightsholders to extract rates far below fair market value,” claims the filing.

The filing also attacks ‘notice and takedown’ requirements as a tool to tackle infringement on DMCA-protected platforms, claiming that “the notice and takedown system as currently configured results in an endless game of whack-a-mole, with infringing content that is removed from a site one moment reposted to the same site and other sites moments later, to be repeated ad infinitem”.

Plus, the bodies also suggest that services benefiting from these protections are “more akin to broadcasters and record stores than warehouses or phone companies”.

Separately, veteran producer T Bone Burnett, who has spoken regularly about copyright reform, has published a new video with his own exhortations for modernisation of the DMCA.

“Those safe harbours have failed. The problems are familiar – they are well described in the record of these proceedings from the broken Sisyphus climb of ‘notice and takedown’ to the gunpoint negotiations and pittance wages forced upon creators by the Google monopoly,” he said.

“The problem here isn’t technology – creators welcome the digital revolution and its power to connect, amplify, and inspire… The problem is business models – designed to scrape away value rather than fuel new creation, focused on taking rather than making.”

There is more road yet to travel in this process of DMCA reform, as well as similar modernisation afoot in Europe. Music bodies and tech companies alike have been watching carefully to see what kind of stance the new Trump administration in the US will take on copyright and DMCA reform, alongside the Copyright Office’s review.

We’ll be hearing more from Google and other tech actors in due course as this process continues.

Stuart Dredge
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One response
  • Adam says:

    It’s high time the DMCA was replaced with a law that actually works to uphold and enforce creators’ rights to their work

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