May 21, 2020 - Technology

Copyright Office: System for pulling content offline isn't working

Illustration of copyright symbols in different styles and colors.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The process to get unlicensed versions of movies, music and other content taken off the internet isn't working as intended and should be updated, the Copyright Office said in an expansive report Thursday.

The big picture: Updating that system would require an act of Congress, which can now look to the Copyright Office's conclusions as it considers legislating on the matter.

Driving the news: In its report, the office found the system for notice and takedown of infringing materials is unbalanced and out of sync with Congress' intent when it established the process in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

  • The DMCA includes liability protection for online companies whose users illegally upload copyrighted material if the online companies take down the material when they are notified by the rights-holder.
  • Copyright holders have complained that this process doesn't proactively protect their intellectual property against online infringement, and the report appears to agree, concluding "Congress’ original intended balance has been tilted askew."

The report doesn't recommend wholesale changes to the process, but does highlight areas of the DMCA that may need updating.

  • They include the criteria for determining who gets to be immune from liability and policies intended to deter repeat offenders, which the Copyright Office concluded may not be working.

What's next: The Senate Judiciary intellectual property subcommittee began a series of hearings examining the DMCA earlier this year, with plans to draft changes to the law by the end of 2020.

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