The US Copyright Office continues to take submissions from interested parties as it examines whether the safe harbours of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) need to be modernised.

We reported on the latest comments filed by music-industry bodies earlier this week, as they blasted the legislation for being “broken and antiquated”. Now Google has returned to the debate with its own additional comments.

It partly reiterates the views in Google’s original filing to the Copyright Office, claiming that the existing notice-and-takedown regime has done its job well, including laying the “foundation” for copyright-protection tools like YouTube’s Content ID “that go far beyond what the DMCA requires and enable copyright owners to monetise uploads of their content by third parties”.

It adds that “rogue sites have found no shelter in the DMCA’s safe harbours. Instead, this activity has successfully been driven out of the United States.”

That argument continues: “Streaming services are displacing piracy. Music consumption is exploding worldwide and traditional-music-industry revenues are growing. The Internet is thriving. Television is in a second Golden Age. These trends show that the DMCA has been effective in meeting both of Congress’s goals,” claims Google, referring to the twin goals of supporting the growth of the internet while tackling online piracy.

This certainly highlights one of the music industry’s key lobbying challenges in 2017: convincing legislators that YouTube’s safe harbours are hurting the industry, even as it returns to growth.

Google’s filing also makes some claims about DMCA takedown notices sent to its search engine by rightsholders, which merit further discussion.

You know the dynamic by now: rightsholders say that sending tens of millions of search takedowns shows the system isn’t working, while Google says that the ease with which tens of millions of search takedowns can be sent shows that it IS working.

But in the new comments, Google opens another line of argument: that a large proportion of its recent increase in takedown notices are “duplicative, unnecessary, or mistaken”.

“A substantial number of takedown requests submitted to Google are for URLs that have never been in our search index, and therefore could never have appeared in our search results,” it claims.

“In total, 99.95% of all URLs processed from our Trusted Copyright Removal Program in January 2017 were not in our index… The large number of takedown requests Google receives is thus not a good proxy for the number of allegedly infringing URLs that appear in Google’s index.”

More positively, Google seems more open to rightsholders’ demands for a ‘notice-and-staydown’ system rather than the existing ‘notice-and-takedown’. It just doesn’t want that to be forced on it by legislation.

“We continue to believe that while ‘staydown’ technologies can play a valuable role in both preventing infringement and fostering new business models (as Content ID does), they are best developed in the context of voluntary efforts between rightsholders, OSPs, and user communities.”

Rightsholders will argue, of course, that Google does need to be shoved down this path by legislation. And so the back-and-forth continues.

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