What They’re Saying About The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

Policy experts, law professors and others agree that the DMCA is a balanced law that benefits innovation, economic growth and even its entertainment industry critics

The Balance Of Current Law

NYU Law Professor Chris Sprigman And Stanford Law Professor Mark Lemley: “The genius of the DMCA is that it lets technology startups comply with the law without hiring a platoon of copyright lawyers. It also enables entertainment companies to turn piracy into legitimate revenue…A good political compromise leaves all sides slightly disappointed. The DMCA is just such a compromise. Technology companies remove pirated content by their users. Entertainment companies must proactively identify that pirated content. It’s not a perfect system, but it works — and because of it, the Internet works too.” (“Why Notice-And-Takedown Is A Bit Of Copyright Law Worth Saving,” Los Angeles Times, 6/21/16)

Financial Times Editorial Board: “Any cultural endeavour involves trade-offs between the creator and those who distribute their material. Artists may feel that they are being inadequately compensated for their efforts. But if so, they should deal with the problem directly, if necessary by withdrawing their content from the distributors with whom they are in dispute. Society should not be obliged to change the law.” (“Big Music’s Misguided Assault On YouTube,” Financial Times, 6/22/16)

Institute for Intellectual Property & Social Justice Founder And Director Lateef Mtima: “Under the Safe Harbor framework, the public has been encouraged to make robust use of copyrighted content in the cause of free speech and concomitantly focus the national attention on issues of social injustice and political controversy. At the same time, rights holders continue to enjoy the unprecedented capability to have content summarily removed from the Internet without judicial intervention or assessment of any kind. A key protection of the public interest which limits the potential chilling effects of this unilateral ability to curtail public access and use is that the public is free to use copyrighted material until a rights holder expressly elects to object to a particular use of specific material.” (“IIPSJ Additional Comments Regarding The Safe Harbor Provisions Of The Digital Millennium Copyright Act,” 2/21/17)

OpenMedia’s Josh Tabish: “Given the benefits and popularity of online platforms that rely on the flexibility of current copyright rules, these proposed rules [by the content industry] actually hamper creativity, rather than promote it. Increased fortification of copyright amounts to nothing more than ‘rent-seeking’ by powerful companies that are less interested in supporting creative communities than in maximizing their profit margins. Indeed, the rules they are asking for would be just another case of industry-driven legislation run wild, all at the expense of everyday internet users and innovation online.” (“The Copyright Barons Are Coming. Now’s The Time To Stop Them,” WIRED, 1/31/17)

University Of Idaho College Of Law Professor Annemarie Bridy: “Because of the DMCA, which imposes costs and obligations on both creative types and technology types, lovers of music and lovers of new technologies have been able to enjoy the best of both worlds.” (“Taplin’s False Choice Between Music And Technology,” Center for Internet and Society Blog, 5/20/16)

R Street Institute’s Mike Godwin: “This world that has enabled me to find all this new music—and I’m not the youngest music fan around, since I’m set to turn 60 this year—is a world that Congress helped create when legislators decided carefully and wisely to put a framework in place that both allows music to be heard digitally nearly everywhere and that also makes it easy for artists to require—sometimes with just a letter of request – that infringing music be removed.” (“A Plea to Congress Not To ‘Fix’ A Music Market That Isn’t Broken,” R Street Blog, 6/21/16)


Promoting Innovation and Creativity

Engine Executive Director Evan Engstrom: “[T]he DMCA has played an essential role in the enormous boom in the internet sector and the unprecedented explosion of creative production that the internet has made possible.” (“Continuing The Startup Community’s Fight For Balanced Copyright,” Medium, 9/15/16)

Open Internet Advocate Marvin Ammori: “Imposing impossible burdens on companies would harm the smallest organizations the most. Startups, nonprofits, and political organizers don’t have the resources to build or even license these technologies. Forcing sites such as eBay, Wikipedia, or Amazon to create and implement filters would be costly and divert resources from innovation while not eliminating infringement.” (“The Music Industry Sings A Lonely Tune On Internet Policy,” The Hill, 6/27/16)

New Creator Peter Hollens: “Hollens credits the safe harbor provision itself with his success. He fears that if Congress made Internet companies responsible for finding and taking down unauthorized music files, they would begin to err heavily on the side of caution and censor musicians out of fear that their music might violate the copyright laws and the company would be responsible for millions of dollars in fines. Under U.S. copyright law, violators can be fined up to $150,000 for each work infringed.” (“Why Taylor Swift Is Asking Congress To Update Copyright Laws,” NPR’s All Things Considered, 8/8/16)

WIRED’s Klint Finley: “It’s hard to overstate the importance of the DMCA’s safe harbor provision to the growth of the early Internet. Had providers and platforms faced liability for what users published, far fewer social networks and web hosts would have existed because of the legal risk. Those that did exist would have had to carefully screen what users posted to ensure no copyright violations were taking place. In short, the DMCA, for all its problems, enabled the explosion of online speech over the past two decades.” (“The Internet’s Safe Harbor Just Got A Little Less Safe,” WIRED, 8/17/16)

Re:Create Coalition Executive Director Josh Lamel: “The success of songs like Frozen’s ‘Let It Go,’ Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ and Silento’s ‘Watch Me,’ is due at least in part to viral fan videos. And academic study after study demonstrates user-generated content has led to a greater diversity of types of creative works available online. Today, creators of all types have embraced the internet as both a new source of revenue and an important tool for reaching their audiences.” (“Let’s Fight To Protect The Democratization Of Creativity,” Engadget, 6/28/16)

FreedomWorks Chief Economist Wayne Brough: “The Internet has expanded the reach of smaller creators, allowing performers to find audiences without relying on the global entertainment industrial complex that creates the Taylor Swifts and Beyoncés of the world…This matters, because the Internet has introduced a new creative class, free from the need to sign with a major label, but utterly dependent on the Internet to survive. Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other online vehicles offer new ways to raise money, spreading risk across a much wider group of investors.” (“Reforming The Digital Millennium Copyright Act,” Real Clear Policy, 8/6/16)

New Creator Rebecca Prince: “‘[Copyright] restrictions online are already onerous enough…Notice-and-staydown would scare people away. The entire YouTube community is talking about it,’ says Prince when asked how burdensome copyright regulations that hold tech companies liable for their users’ copyright infringement could affect her YouTube career. ‘I’m already giving up quite a bit to do this, but it’s what I’m passionate about. With too many obstacles, I might not be able to justify continuing to do what I do.’” (“Rebecca Prince Aka “Becky Boop,” Re:Create Blog, 10/5/16)


Supporting Economic Growth

Internet Association President and CEO Michael Beckerman: “The law is working: The internet sector is now a global driver of the economy, reaching nearly $1 trillion — or 6 percent — of our GDP in 2014 alone. An era of previously unimagined cultural diversity is available globally at the touch of a finger…The growth of legal content consumption has driven the entertainment industry to grow from $449 billion in 1998 to $745 billion just twelve years after the DMCA was enacted. Lower barriers to entry are available for millions of small and independent businesses and artists to access worldwide markets.” (“If You Love The Internet You Should Thank The DMCA,” Medium, 6/22/16)

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)’s Legal Director Corynne McSherry: “As the debate over the future of the DMCA safe harbors heats up, the US Copyright Office is proposing a plan that could undermine those safe harbors much sooner…Section 512 already imposes a host of conditions on service providers; any new condition is just one more burden. And failure to meet this new condition would have significant consequences: an otherwise-protected service provider could face greater exposure to a threat of massive—and potentially business-ending—damage award that could reach millions (or even billions) of dollars for forgetting to renew their agent designation.” (“EFF To Copyright Office: No New Barriers To DMCA Safe Harbors,” EFF, 6/24/16)

Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA)’s Matt Schruers: “Today, tens of thousands of platforms rely on this safe harbor…Artists are born on YouTube, and through the quirks of the Internet, established artists like Simon & Garfunkel can be re-discovered there by a new generation. Movies like ‘Frozen’ are transformed into viral sensations due to online tributes, which in turn drives theatre revenues and merchandising. Artists use the DMCA-reliant platforms to successfully engage with their fans: research suggests that fans who engage with their bands on social media spend more on music, and listen longer.” (“Music Industry DMCA Letter Seeks To Turn Back Clock On Internet,” Project-Disco Blog, 6/21/16)


Entertainment Industry Has Capitalized On Benefits

The Guardian’s Eamonn Forde: “Labels and artists will use YouTube to build and target audiences, to debut videos and also present the viewing data as part of the ammunition in their plugging to TV and radio. It is a huge part of their marketing strategy and losing it overnight would be calamitous… YouTube could survive without music, but the hard question the music industry has to ask itself now is if it can survive without YouTube.” (“Rock Stars Go To War With YouTube At Their Peril,” The Guardian, 7/2/16)

Fortune’s Jeff John Roberts: “This spectacle of Swift and other A-listers pleading for ‘reform’ will no doubt make an impression on the country’s lawmakers. But that doesn’t mean they should listen. What the music industry is doing is making mischief with an important law in order to put business pressure on YouTube…Even if Congress does tear up the DMCA, it’s unlikely the result would be more money for artists. Instead, it would mean a morass of lawsuits and licensing fees, and more consumers turning to overseas piracy sites.” (“Why Taylor Swift And The Music Industry’s New Attack On YouTube Is A Mistake,” Fortune, 6/20/16)