The House Judiciary Meets To Discuss Updates To The DCMA

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was enacted in 1996 to address intellectual property protections in the Internet age. Title 17 was introduced as a way of expanding copyright protection; while also limiting the liability of online service providers should their users commit copyright violations.

While the rapid expansion of the online marketplace has provided many economic benefits, it has also brought about a series of copyright issues that were not anticipated during the drafting of Title 17. Section 512 of Title 17 was specifically designed to deal with copyright violators. On March 12th, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property met to discuss if updates to the 1998 law are needed. 

Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) began by stating that the original purpose of 512 had two main goals:

1. Enabling good faith online service providers to operate without risk of liability for the actions of their users, and

2. Enabling copyright owners to quickly remove infringing online content without flooding the courts with litigation.

With panelists ranging from a Grammy winning musician to a lawyer from Google, the consensus seemed to be that as it stands now, it is far easier to upload copyrighted material illegally than it is to take it down. Many of the members of the subcommittee stressed the need for tech companies to come up with a solution as government involvement will not be a proper way to solve the problem.

Google’s senior copyright policy lawyer Katherine Oyama had much of the discussion directed at her through the hearing as her company is the leader in adapting solutions for copyright violations by its users. In response to users who have copyrighted content uploaded to YouTube, Oyama said that Google works closely with the copyright holders to determine if it should be taken down. She did add that while they do take down a lot of copyrighted content, most of the time the copyright holders wish to leave it up and monetize it.

A few of the members suggested solutions for Google in their battle with copyright violators. One of those suggestions came from Rep. Cedric Richmond, who brought up his concern that Google’s auto-complete feature points search engine users toward pirated content. He suggested omitting “free” from searches but Oyama responded that such a response would cause more harm than good. While Google wants legal content to appear first on searches, omitting free hurts those content creators who actually publish work for free in order to gain popularity. Oyama noted that it is in Google’s best interest to prevent things like pirated movies from appearing on the top of search results due to their own multimedia store Google Play where users can buy apps, games, movies, and music.

As members have stated, the content creators and the tech companies need to work together to solve the problem of illegal content because they are the ones who hold the most interest in creating an online environment with less copyright violations.