·  by Michael Petricone

Changes to Section 512 Would Harm our Booming Internet Ecosystem

Originally Posted On: CDT

Today, the Copyright Office released its report on Section 512 of Title 17 U.S. Code, a part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which provides for “Notice and Takedown” of infringing works. Essentially, Section 512 provides a “safe harbor” to internet platforms that promptly remove infringing material upon proper notice from the copyright owner. While the report does not recommend wholesale revisions to the Section 512, we are disappointed that it suggests legislative changes that could expose lawful internet platforms to increased liability, and could result in lawful users only accused of infringing entirely losing their access to the internet.

In drafting Sections 512 and 1201 of the DMCA in 1998, Congress tried to create a balance that would benefit innovators, content creators and internet users. By all evidence Congress succeeded: thanks to the safe harbor of Section 512 the internet ecosystem is booming, and content creators, in Section 1201, gained additional tools against circumvention of technical protection measures.

For online innovators, Section 512 protects the internet as a forum for free speech and innovation, while ensuring that lawful internet services are not constantly threatened with costly litigation. Thanks in part to Section 512, America is home to the world’s leading online companies as well as the most dynamic Internet startups. During our current COVID crisis, millions of Americans, turn to these online platforms as a vital lifeline to vital health information, entertainment and business and family communication.

The content industry has thrived under the DMCA. Global movie box office revenue reached a record 14.5 billion dollars last year. Content is even growing users during the pandemic: CTA’s recent market research study “COVID-19 Impact Study: Use of Technology at Home” found that 48% of consumers are streaming online video more often, and 26% are using video streaming services for the first time. More, driven by internet streaming, the music industry saw its fourth consecutive year of double-digit growth with 2019 revenues up thirteen percent.

Section 512 has enabled an explosion in creativity, as anyone with a broadband connection can create, distribute and sell their work to a global audience. Meanwhile, consumers revel in historically unprecedented anytime-anywhere access to movies, music and other content.

Section 512 works. While reviewing and potentially acting on the Copyright Office report, we urge Congress to not weaken a system that is benefitting American innovators, content creators and consumers.